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.


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.

The powerful iconographic language and philosophy of these paintings is tjukurrtjanu (from the Dreaming): it communicates the artists’ intimate connection with men’s ritual, hallowed sites in their country and the Tjukurrpa (Dreaming).

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Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri
Anmatyerr c.1929–1984
Yam Spirit Dreaming 1972
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
70.0 x 54.0 cm
Private collection
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
Ad101012
Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri
Anmatyerr c.1929–1984
Butterfly Dreaming 1972
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
45.3 x 61.7 cm
Private collection
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
Ad101013
Walter Tjampitjinpa
Pintupi c.1912–81
Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa 1971
enamel paint on composition board
61.6 x 73.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Alcoa of Australia Limited, Governor, 1993
(O.21–1993)
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
EXHI013388
Freddy West Tjakamarra
Pintupi c.1940-95
Man’s corroboree story 1972
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
60.0 x 30.0 cm
Private collection
Photo: John Spiller
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
EXHI015153

Warlugulong is the first of a series of collaborative works by Clifford Possum and Tim Leura that thoroughly explores the map-like potential of a large canvas and brings together complex, interwoven narratives within an evocation of ancestral geography. Its title refers to the site of Warlukurlangu, which lies about thirty kilometres south of Yuendumu, where a great ancestral fire began. Lungkata, the Blue-tongue Lizard Man, had rested at this site. His two sons following behind, speared a kangaroo, cooked it, and greedily ate it all. The father sensed what had happened and determined to punish them. He blew on a firestick until it glowed, then touched it to a bush. The bush exploded into flame, as the painting illustrates, then burnt everything in its path and soon the two brothers were fighting the flames. Far to the south they perished, going into the ground as the bushfire lost its fury and died.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri
Anmatyerr c.1932-2002
Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri
Anmatyerr c.1929-1984
Warlugulong 1976
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
168.5 x 170.5 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased, 1981 (321.1981)
Photo: Ray Woodbury
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
EXHI015167
Walter Tjampitjinpa
Pintupi c.1912-81
Water Dreaming 1972
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
78.0 x 31.0 cm
The Gabrielle Pizzi Collection, Melbourne
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
EXHI015171
Anatjari Tjakamarra
Ngaatjatjarra/Pintupi c.1938-1992
A cave Dreaming 1972
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
66.2 x 57.0 cm
State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Purchased with funds provided by the BHP Community Trust to the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 1996 (1996/0082)
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
EXHI015173
Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri
Anmatyerr c.1932-2002
Bush-fire I 1972
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
62.0 x 46.2 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1994
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
EXHI015174
Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri
Anmatyerr c.1932-2002
Bush-fire II 1972
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
61.0 x 43.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1994
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
EXHI015177
Timmy Payungka Tjapangati
Pintupi c.1940-2000
Sandhill country west of Wilkinkarra, Lake Mackay 1972
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
76.0 x 52.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
The Peter Fannin Collection of Early Western Desert Paintings
Purchased, 1998
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
EXHI015182
Tutuma Tjapangati
Pintupi/Pitjantjatjara c.1909-87
Big Corroboree Dreaming 1971
earth pigments and synthetic polymer paint on composition board
96.8 x 58.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1993
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
EXHI015185
Nosepeg Tjupurrula
Pintupi c.1915-90
Three ceremonial poles 1971
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
56.2 x 70.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1993
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd

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