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.


Anmatyerr people from Central Australia

In Central Australia, 1928 is remembered as the year of the Coniston Massacre when approximately 110 Anmatyerr, Warlpiri and Kaitetye people were slaughtered on Coniston Station, a day’s ride north of Laramba where Tim Leura and Clifford Possum Leura were born. Constable William Murray and his gang of murderous officers on horseback shattered any illusion that the people of the region could continue to live independently in their own country.

Less than a decade before, Anmatyerr country was finally engulfed by the pastoral frontier with the establishment of Napperby Station. In the aftermath of the ‘the killing times’, the presence of a paternalistic but protective station owner offered several Anmatyerr families a reprieve from the bloodbath of preceding years. In this new reality, those who could adapt and exploit cross-cultural opportunities thrived, however, there were others who struggled to cling on to what was left of their world.

The Anmatyerr artists, the most fluent of the Papunya residents in Aboriginal English, initially created images that were provocative exemplars of men’s customary ritual. Their brilliantly figurative, symmetrical and audacious celebrations of the theatre of performance, superimposed with delicate precision on plain backgrounds, seem to have been influenced by Kaapa’s example. Later this direct visual correspondence mutates into composite sensations and metaphors of nature, as seen in Tim Leura's and Clifford Possum’s works, that suggest dappled intricacies of light and shade, botanical and topographical variations, and the dynamics of fire, smoke and the brooding melancholy of darkness.

Related images

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
Ad100992
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
EXHI015668
Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri
Anmatyerr born c.1927
Yala (Wild Potato) Dreaming 1971
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
54.5 x 46.0 cm
Collection of Eva and Robert Shaye, USA
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
EXHI015301
Kaapa Tjampitjinpa
Anmatyerr/Warlpiri c.1925-89
Corroboree and body decoration 1972
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
35.4 x 22.0 cm
Beverly and Anthony Knight, Melbourne
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
EXHI015193
Kaapa Tjampitjinpa
Anmatyerr/Warlpiri c.1925-89
Men’s Ceremony for the Kangaroo, Gulgardi 1971
watercolour on plywood
61.0 x 137.0 cm
Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
Winner of the Caltex Art Award, 1971. Acquired by the Central Australian Art Society from the 1971 Caltex Art Award. Donated to the people of Alice Springs through the Alice Springs Town Council
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
Ad100683
Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri
Anmatyerr c.1929–1984
Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri
Anmatyerr c.1932–2002
Spirit Dreaming through Napperby country 1980
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
207.7 x 670.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1988
(O.33-1988)
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
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

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