Patrick Tjungurrayi: Kallianku


The late Pintupi artist Patrick Tjungurrayi’s paintings offer abstract representations of Country, ceremony, and ancestral and creation stories. They are deeply informed by his role as a senior Law man who tended to ceremony and Country between Balgo and Kiwirrkurra in remote Western Australia. Using a vivid palette of burnished orange and yellow punctuated by cool-water blue, he made works reflective of the Western Desert landscape.

Patrick Tjungurrayi, Tingari, May 2010, acrylic on board, 20 x 60 cm.

Kallianku is a body of work completed over a 12-year period that is responsive to the Tingari creation stories of the Pintupi language group – a wealth of knowledge and history that informs Dreaming and laws in the area.

Born in the 1930s, Tjungurrayi lived a traditional bush life before encountering a helicopter carrying surveyors in 1957; a year later he moved to the Catholic mission in Balgo. He first began painting in the 1980s, and by the next decade he was working with the renowned Papunya Tula Artists cooperative. He painted up until his passing in 2017.

Patrick Tjungurrayi, Tingari, May 2010, acrylic on board, 20 x 60 cm.

“Some of the smaller works in the exhibition have a rawness and energy that feels reminiscent of the earliest days of the Western Desert art movement,” says Mike Mitchell of Mitchell Fine Art, who will present a broad suite of 15 works. These range from paintings on board to large canvases, all of which speak to the significant position that Tjungurrayi holds as an Aboriginal artist.

Describing the life and contribution of Tjungurrayi, John Carty, a friend and collaborator who also heads humanities at the South Australian Museum, counts Tjungurrayu as one of the “giant human beings who walk among us in Australia and who are often invisible in mainstream consciousness.”

Patrick Tjungurrayi
Mitchell Fine Art
26 June—20 July

This article was originally published in the July/August print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Andy Butler