Tjukurrtjanu TjukurrtjanuTjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art

NGV NGVNGV: 150 years Museum VictoriaMuseum Victoria Papanya Tula ArtistsPapanya Tula Artists

  • An NGV Touring Exhibition
  • 30 September 2011 – 12 February 2012
  • The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia,
  • Federation Square, Melbourne
  • 9 October 2012 – 20 January 2013
  • Musée du quai Branly, Paris

Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art examines a watershed moment in the history of art when a painting practice emerged at Papunya in Central Australia. Tjukurrtjanu gives prominence to 200 of the first paintings produced at Papunya between 1971 and 1972 and also establishes the vital connection between the works of art and their sources in ephemeral designs made for use in ceremony.

A collaboration between the NGV and Museum Victoria.
In partnership with Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd.

This website contains the names, images and works of Indigenous people who have passed away, which may cause distress to some Indigenous people.

Indigenous people from Central Australia and the Western Desert are advised that this exhibition contains culturally sensitive works that may be considered harmful or inappropriate for viewing by women or uninitiated members of their communities. Care has been taken to respect cultural protocols and, following a comprehensive consultation process, these works will be exhibited separately for the duration of the exhibition and will not be illustrated in the exhibition catalogue or displayed on this website.

Please note that some records contain terms and annotations that reflect the period in which the item was recorded, and may be considered inappropriate today in some circumstances.

Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi (Pintupi c. 1928–1998)

He painted for his life, and, in the latter years in particular, as with many of the original Papunya Tula artists, it was his life. His world became his art mapped out on canvas for all to see. Every critical stage of every epic tale that occurred in his country could be told through a language of lines and dots. (Paul Sweeney, 2011)

Born at Iltuturunga, south-west of Kaakurutintjinya (Lake Macdonald), Yala Yala grew up in this area. In 1962 he and his young family travelled to Papunya with Welfare Branch patrol officer Jeremy Long to receive medical treatment for a sick child and returned with a group of Pintupi in July of the following year.

In 1971 Yala Yala came knocking on the door of Geoffrey Bardon's flat in search of painting materials and became one of the founding shareholders of Papunya Tula Artists and an important artist. His powerful early works eschew figuration and often feature white dotting upon a red ochre or black background. An authority in ritual matters, he is also acknowledged for his Tingarri compositions on large canvases, characterised by serious incantations of dotted concentric circles and travelling paths, strong in country and law.

During the early 1980s he moved with his large family to Walungurru and eventually to Kiwirrkura. Yala Yala's work was included in Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia, which toured the USA in 1988–89, and after the exhibition one of his works was acquired by the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi 1977
Pintupi c.1928-98
Photo © Jon Falkenmire


  • EXHI015497
    Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi
    Pintupi c.1928-98
    Untitled 1971-72
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    73.0 x 51.0 cm
    Australian Museum, Sydney
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
  • Ad100920
    Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi
    Pintupi c.1928–98
    Snake and Water Dreaming 1972
    earth pigments and synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    56.5 x 49.9 cm
    National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
    Gift of Mrs Douglas Carnegie OAM, 1989
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists

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