Walala Tjapaltjarri

Region: Kiwirrkurra Western Australia
Language group: Pintupi

Walala was born in the region of Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay) in the Western Desert. In 1984, Walala and several other Pintupi people made first contact with present-day Australian society. They moved to Kiwirrkurra, a remote community in the Gibson Desert.

In was in late 1984, Walala and several other members of the Pintupi Tribe walked out of the remote wilderness of the Gibson Desert in Western Australia and made contact for the first time with European society. Described as ‘The Lost Tribe’, he and his family created international headlines. Until that day in 1984, Walala and his family lived the traditional and nomadic life of a hunter-gatherer society. Their intimate knowledge of the land, its flora and fauna and waterholes allowed them to survive, as their ancestors had for thousands of years.
It is this sacred landscape with its significant sites that Walala so strikingly describes in his paintings.

In 1997, encouraged by his brother Warlimpirrnga (a very well-known painter) he began to paint in a minimalist style reminiscent of engravings on weapons, sand paintings and ritual body painting. In his art, he depicts the Tingari Cycle (a series of sacred and secret mythological song cycles) which are associated with the artist’s many dreaming sites – they are Wilkinkarra, Maruwa, Tarrku, Njami and Yarrawangu, to name a few. These Dreamings are the locations of significant rockholes, sandhills, sacred mountains and water soakages in the Gibson Desert. He describes the epic journeys of Ancestors in the Tjukurrpa (Dreamtime).

His style is strongly gestural and boldly graphic, one that is generally highlighted by a series of rectangles set against a monochrome background.

Since he began painting in 1997, Walala Tjapaltjarri has gained worldwide recognition, participating in several national and international solo and group exhibitions. His paintings are represented in private and public collections in Australia, Europe and the U.S.A. Walala Tjapaltjarri was first introduced to painting by his brother Warlimpirrnga, also a painter of international acclaim.

While Walala’s first paintings were in a classical Tingari style usually reserved for body painting, ground painting and the decoration of traditional artifacts, within a couple of months of painting he evolved his own innovative style of work. He began abstracting the classical Pintupi designs, creating a highly graphic language to speak of his country and ceremonial sites. The rectangles so prominent in his paintings form both a physical and spiritual map establishing Walala as a discerning draughtsman for his ancient country.

2000-01 ‘The Art of Place Exhibition’, Australian Heritage Commission, National Tour
2000 ‘Walala Tjapatjarri and Dr George Tjapaltjarri’, Cooee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney, NSW.
2000 ‘Songlines: Walala Tjapaltjarri & Dorothy Napangardi ‘, Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London, England
2000 ‘My Country – Journeys of our Ancestors’ Ancient Earth Indigenous Art, Cairns, QLD.
2000 ‘Lines’, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane, QLD
2000 ‘Landmarks Exhibition’, Dar Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse, Queensland
2000 ‘Fifth National Indigenous Heritage Art Award’, Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra
2000 ’17th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award’, Darwin, N.T.
2000 ‘ Melbourne ArtFair 2000’, Melbourne, Australia
1999 ‘Tingari Cycle, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane, QLD
1999 ‘Spirit Country’ The California Palace of the Legion of Honour, San Francisco, U.S.A.
1999 ‘Recent Works by Walala Tjapaltjarri and Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri’, Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London.
1999 ‘Painting the Desert’ Alliance Francaise de Canberra and the French Embassy. Canberra, A.C.T.
1999 16th National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Darwin, N.T.
1998 ‘Tingari-My Dreaming’, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, W.A.
1998 ’15th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award’, Darwin, N.T.
1997 ’14th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award’, Darwin, N.T.

1998 Tingari – Men’s Business’, Coo-ee Gallery, Sydney, NSW
1998 Walala Tjapaltjarri Paintings, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne, VIC.
1998 ‘Tingari Cycle’ an exhibition of works by Walala Tjapaltjarri, Fire-Works Gallery, Brisbane, QLD.

AMP Investments Australia, Sydney, N.S.W. Axiom Funds Management, Sydney, N.S.W.
Gantner Myer Aboriginal Art Collection CNC International Corporation, Sydney, N.S.W.
Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, Perth, W.A. El Paso Energy International Co, Houston, Texas
Epic Energy Australia, Brisbane, QLD. Flinders University, Adelaide, S.A.
Hastings Funds Management, Melbourne, VIC. Kaplan & Levi Collection, Seattle, U.S.A.
New South Wales Art Gallery, Sydney, N.S.W. The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, U.S.A.