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Region: Pikilyi (Vaughan Springs) Western Desert
Outstation: Mt Singleton, Pikilyi
Language: Warlpiri, Luritja
Social Affiliation: Jakamarra subsection
Michael was born at Vaughan Springs in the Northern Territory in the year 1949. He first saw white men at Mount Doreen Station and remembers hiding in the bush in fear. Michael lived at Haasts Bluff for a time with the same family group as Long Jack Phillipus Tjakammara. Later his parents took him to Yuendumu for European education at the mission school. He left school after initiation and worked pig shooting, driving trucks, droving cattle and was in the Army before coming back to Yuendumu and then to Papunya to settle and marry his current wife. He moved to Papunya in 1976 and worked in the government store and observed the work of many of the older artists for many years before he began to paint regularly in 1983.
His parents were both Walpiri and his father was an important “Medicine Man” in the Yuendumu community. After his father’s death in 1976, Michael worked under the instruction of his uncle Jack Tjurpurrula. Michael paints Possum, Snake, Two Kangaroos, Flying Ant and Yam Dreamings for the area around Pikilyi. He won the National Aboriginal Art Award in September 1984. In 1987 an 8.2 m (27 ft) long painting by Michael was installed in the foyer of the Sydney Opera House. He was introduced to Queen Elizabeth II in 1988 at the opening of the New Parliament House as the designer of the 196 square metre mosaic in the forecourt of the building. His 1985 painting “Five Stories” was one of the most reproduced works of Australian Art in the 1980s. It appeared on the cover of the catalogue of the Asia Society’s “Dreamings” exhibition which toured the USA in 1988-90. Michael travelled to New York City with Billy Stockman Japaltjarri for the opening of the show. In 1989 he had his first solo exhibition in Melbourne at the Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi and participated in the BMW Art Car Project by hand painting an M3 race car.
During the late 1990s, he reinvented his approach to painting with a more expressionistic style. He continues to make the salient point that although his choice of colours, materials and appearance of works are continually being reformatted, his stories have never changed.
In 1993 Michael Nelson Jagamarra was awarded an Order of Australia medal for his service to the arts. His significant contribution to Aboriginal Art was again recognised in 2008, when he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of New South Wales.
1984 First Prize, Inaugural National Aboriginal Art Award, Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences, Darwin;
1993 Visual Arts/Crafts Board Fellowship;
1993 Order of Australia
2006 Winner, Tattersall’s Landscape Art Prize.
1987 Sydney Opera House, 27 foot long painting, for foyer;
1988 Designer of Mosaic for forecourt of new Parliament House, Canberra;
1989 BMW Art Car Project, painted M3 Racing Car
Artbank,Sydney; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Australian Museum, Sydney; Broken Hill Art Gallery; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra; Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; The Holmes a Court Collection, Perth; The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, U.S.A.
Michael has exhibited his work in many exhibitions (including several solo exhibitions) and these include: Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne; Utopia Art, Sydney; Australian National Gallery, Canberra; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; John Webber Gallery, New York. After these exhibitions, Michael was tired, so he decided not to ‘exhibit’ anymore.
1984, Papunya and Beyond, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs; 1984, The First National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin; 1985, The Face of the Centre: Papunya Tula Paintings 1971-1984, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.; 1986, The Biennale of Sydney, Sydney; 1986, Roar Studios, Melbourne; 1987, State of the art: ideas & images of the 1980’s, Institute of Contemporary Art, London.; 1987, The Fourth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin; 1987, Papunya Tula:1982-1983, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne; 1988, Dreamings: the art of Aboriginal Australia, The Asia Society Galleries, New York.; 1989, Papunya Tula: Contemporary Paintings from Australia’s Western Desert, John Weber Gallery, New York, USA..; 1989, Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City; 1989, A Myriad of Dreaming: Twentieth Century Aboriginal Art, Westpac Gallery, Melbourne; Design Warehouse Sydney [through Lauraine Diggins Fine Art] ; 1989, Aboriginal Art: The Continuing Tradition, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; 1989, Windows on the Dreaming, Australian National Gallery, Canberra; 1990, National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome; 1990, Balance 1990: views, visions, influences, QAG, Brisbane ; 1991, Aboriginal Art and Spirituality, High Court, Canberra; 1991, Flash Pictures, National Gallery of Australia; 1991, The Painted Dream: Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings from the Tim and Vivien Johnson Collection, Auckland City Art Gallery and Te Whare Taonga o Aoteroa National Art Gallery, New Zealand; 1991, Alice to Penzance, The Mall Galleries, The Mall, London; 1992, Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs; 1992, Crossroads-Towards a New Reality, Aboriginal Art from Australia, National Museums of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo; 1993, Aboriginal Art Exhibition, Kung Gubunga,Oasis Gallery, Broadbeach,Qld; 1993, Tjukurrpa, Desert Dreamings, Aboriginal Art from Central Australia (1971-1993), Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth WA; 1993/4, ARATJARA, Art of the First Australians, Touring: Kunstammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf; Hayward Gallery, London; Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark