acrylic on canvas
catalogue number: WT0209109
153 x 122 cm
Sold Caruana & Reid Fine Art November 2002,
Private collection, Melbourne
Private collection, Sydney
Warlimpinga was one of a group of about 10 Pintupi speaking people (an extended family) who first encountered Europeans as late as 1984. The group had known that Europeans had arrived: their relatives were in contact with them, and they had even seen some of the white man’s artefacts (eg. Cars). However this group had intentionally stayed away until resources were getting too scarce and they were convinced “to make contact”. Pintupi country straddles the border of Western Australia and the Northern Territory around Lake Mackay, and further south. The Pintupi people are regarded by their Aboriginal neighbours as the most esoteric of all Aboriginal groups: this is reflected in the strikingly minimalistic nature of their paintings for public display. Their paintings are usually connected to the major ancestral beings, the Tingari.
The Tingari beings are commonly described as two senior men accompanied by two women who lead a large group of novices across the vast western deserts, creating the features of the landscape and establishing the laws and customs which have governed Pintupi people for millennia. These events form part of the teaching of the post-initiatory youths today as well as providing explanations for contemporary customs.
Pintupi artists such as Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, Uta Uta Tjangala and Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri (now household names in modern Australian art) where part of that first group of artists who caused a revolution in Aboriginal art. They were among the first artists in 1971 to take up acrylic paint and canvas to translate their traditional visual language onto portable surfaces, using European materials.
Warlimpinga was the first of this extended family to paint publicly for the local Papunya Tula Artists cooperative, and held his first solo exhibition only four years after the famous “walk in”, at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi in Melbourne, from which the National Gallery of Victoria acquired a large group of works. The exhibition caused a bit of a sensation. Warlimpinga’s work is totally unaffected by any outside influence: the imagery is direct from pre-contact times, however it sits comfortably within the style of work of his contemporaries.
Since that first exhibition, Warlimpinga has been represented in a number of major exhibitions including the National Gallery of Australia’s L’été australien à Montpellier held in France in 1990, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s major Olympic exhibition, Genesis and Genius which traced the history of the Papunya Tula movement.
Warlimpinga’s has accommodated the modern world into his life vision: still a very traditional ceremonial man, he recently admitted to a leading curator that he aims to be one of the most famous Aboriginal artists of his time!
Body painting designs, Untitled, 2002 depicts tracts of desert landscape and, simultaneously, the body painting designs as worn by the Pintupi in Tingari ceremonies. Important features of both paintings are the tactile quality of the paint itself – the slightly raised lines of colour imitate cicatrices which indicate the ritual standing of a man – and the vibrant optical nature of the painted surfaces intimates the presence of the spiritual power of the ancestors, which is present in the earth itself.