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.

Your stories

If you or your family have a special story or connection to the artists and art of Papunya Tula and the Western Desert, we'd love to share it.

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Posted 25 Nov 2011
by Jon Luker

My kids (8 & 10 years old) were fascinated by these works - they really got it. The connection to the land was very powerful to them.

Posted 11 Oct 2011
by Tiffany Chimirri

I had the great honour of meeting Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri at the opening of an exhibition at the Tingarri Aboriginal Art Gallery, Carlton, Melbourne in May of 1992. I was a young graduate student researching and writing a paper on Central Australian Indigenous art. At the time, I had no idea that Clifford Possum was going to be at the opening and I certainly had no idea that I would be working in Education at the National Gallery of Victoria 20 years later, delivering talks to students about him. This exhibition included works by Indigenous men and women from regions ranging from Central Australia and the Western Desert to Arnhem Land in the north. Five of Clifford Possum's paintings were shown along with artworks by
others artists including Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri, Paddy Carrol Tjungurrayi and Pansy Campbell. Opening the exhibition, Clifford Possum preferred to discuss the stories of his paintings with individuals rather than giving a speech to the large audience. Clifford Possum spoke very expressively and he used a lot of gesture and physically touched his paintings when he was pointing out particular details. He told me that his paintings were set around the Mount Allen region and at Napperby Station which was, as he put it, 'his borning place.' When discussing his painting titled Banana Bush Dreaming with me, he
explained the meanings of the symbols and iconography used. He pointed out that the central pale yellow star shape was the banana plant and the concentric circles in the centre represented Mount Allen. Women (shown as footprints) were coming to pick bananas, shown as yellow and grey nut-like shapes, around the perimeter of the canvas. The different coloured dotting
in the background represented different vegetation in the area and the bead-like chains represented necklaces which the women had made from plant seeds. He then went on to discuss Hunting for a Wallaby with me, revelling now in his captivated audience. In reflection, I was extremely privileged to have met one of the founding artists of the Western Desert art movement. What a rare treat it was to have a personal discussion with Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. The experience will
live with me forever.

Tiffany Chimirri
Educator, National Gallery of Victoria

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