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.


Tjukurrpa (Dreaming)

For people of the Western Desert the Tjukurrpa (Dreaming) is the very foundation of their being. This active life force informs their spiritual and social identity. It is established out of a vast series of complex narratives that describe the actions and events of the ancestors who entered into and became the land, its plants, animals and people. It is from this period of creation, embodying past, present and future, that Western Desert peoples inherit their highly organised system of kinship, language, ceremonies and ritual law, which remains strong.

Tjukurrtjanu (from the Dreaming)

The powerful iconographic language and philosophy of Western Desert art is tjukurrtjanu (from the Dreaming). The designs and images express the artists' intimate connection with men's ritual, special places in their country and the Tjukurrpa.

Related images

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
EXHI015537
Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula
Pintupi/Luritja c.1925-2001
Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa 1972
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
80.0 x 75.0 cm
John and Barbara Wilkerson, New York, USA
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
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
EXHI015593

The title identifies this painting within the corpus of works associated with the Old Man's Dreaming. This ancestral being, yina who travelled from Kampurarrnga in the Henty Hills, through Ngurrapalangu and Yumari and on westwards – traversing almost precisely the plains area through which Pintupi people moved back and forth in pre-contact times. The ‘Old Man’ is known particularly for having had intercourse with a tabooed category of relative, his ‘mother-in-law’ at Yumari, ‘mother-in-law’ place, for which transgression he suffered an attack of ants on his penis. There are, of course, many distinctive sites on the Old Man’s path. This painting is connected to the site area of Yumari, but not so much to the rockhole itself. The figure in the upper left corner is likely the Old Man himself. The meandering black line below him connected to a concentric circle in the lower left corner is the mark left by him dragging his penis towards the mother-in-law’s vagina, a feature of the rock outcropping. In the centre of the painting, the six oblong features probably represent the ‘standing rocks’ that stand to the south of the Yumari rockhole – a formation called Tilirrangarranya (light the fire and stand) where the Old Man stood by the fire and decorated himself the morning after. This feature was often represented in the overt form of ritual objects in early paintings.

Uta Uta Tjangala
Pintupi c.1926-90
Old Man’s Dreaming 1983
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
242.0 x 362.0 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
South Australian Government Grant, 1984 (844P11)
© artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
Ad100731

This multi-layered and deeply personal collaborative work is visionary in its dimension and symphonic complexity, reaching out to encompass multiple Dreamings in a mythological topography. Perhaps, as Geoffrey Bardon suggested, Tim Leura was considering the course of his life while painting the epic canvas. Journeying through time as he paints, Tim Leura depicts conception and birth in the Possum country of Laramba through to his experience as a post-initiate witnessing malierra ceremonies, and his developing maturity as an artist who realised that his work would live on in a printed form.

In an era when postmodernism was yet to find its feet in Australian art, Tim Leura incorporated in the work copies of three of his previous paintings, two of which had just been published by Bardon in the first monograph on the Western Desert art movement. The skeletal spirit figure perhaps represents Tim Leura's father in transition from the 'living world' into the Dreaming, conveying how time in the past is continuous with that of the present in Anmatyerr belief.

Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula
Pintupi/Luritja c.1925–2001
Kampurarrpa 1974
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
168.5 x 330.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1985 (O.5-1985)
© 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
Ad100398
Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula
Pintupi/Luritja c.1925–2001
A bush tucker story 1972
synthetic polymer paint on composition board
91.4 x 66.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of North Broken Hill Ltd, Fellow, 1987
(O.48-1987)
© 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
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
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
Ad100940
Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi
Pintupi c.1920–87
Men in a Bushfire 1972
enamel paint on composition board
64.2 x 50.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of North Broken Hill Ltd, Fellow, 1987
(O.55-1987)
© 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

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