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.


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    Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi
    Pintupi c.1920–87
    Untitled 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    67.7 x 46.0 cm
    National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
    Purchased through the Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of ICI Australia Ltd, Fellow, 1988
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
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    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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    Wartanuma is the Pintupi word for a particular species of flying ant and is also the name of a claypan and soakage water site northwest of Walungurru. The Wartunuma (Flying Ant) Dreaming travelled west from Wantungurru on Alcoota Station to Kilpirrnga south east of Jupiter Well, in the Gibson Desert. Kilpirrnga is a hill site with a large cave, which is represented by a rectangular shape towards the bottom. The concentric circles towards the top show the camps of three old men who had gathered for ceremonies and were sitting on the crest of the hill.

    This work shows the daring simplicity and expansiveness of Tjampitjinpa’s mature style, in which flat blocks of colour are dominant and one or more geometric motifs are writ large, resulting in work of power and muscular presence. In Tjampitjinpa’s work, the scale and iconography of a ritual object or body design is transformed into that of a monumental ground painting.

    Ronnie Tjampitjinpa
    Pintupi born c.1943
    Wartunuma (Flying Ant) Dreaming 1991
    synthetic polymer paint on canvas
    153.0 x 183.0 cm
    National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
    Presented through the NGV Foundation by anonymous donors, 2006 (2006.12)
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists



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