CIRCA 1943, NEAR WALA WALA, WA
George Tjungurrayi was born in the desert in the vicinity of Wala Wala, near Kiwirrkura, circa 1943. He spent his early years in the bush at Mukula, west of Kiwirrkura, before walking in to the settlement at Papunya as a young man. During the 1970s he moved between Yayayi, Waruwiya and Mt Liebig, before settling in Kintore following the homelands movement.
George began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in the early 1980s, quickly garnering attention for his signature topographical linework, referencing the decorative ‘fluted’ carving that traditionally embellished ceremonial weapons. In 2003, George was named among the top 50 of Australia’s most collectable artists by Australian Art Collector magazine. He was highly commended in the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award in 2010 and 2011, and the Wynne Landscape Prize in 2016. His works are held in many major collections, notably the NGA, NGV, AGNSW, AGSA, Museum of Contemporary Art, the Voituron Collection (Belgium) and the Kluge Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection (USA).
George Tjungurrayi’s untitled painting relates to the claypan site of Mamultjulkulnga, on the western side of Wilkinkarra (Lake Mckay). This site is of great importance to the artist, whose father passed away here. After rain, the claypan becomes a shallow freshwater lake, and the small fleshy shrub known as mungilypa (Tecticornia verrucose) grows abundantly. During ancestral times, two Tingari men of the Tjungurrayi and Tjapaltjarri kinship subsections camped at this site to gather mungilypa. The men made spears, which they threw towards the east and west. The spears flew straight before turning north and south. Tjungurrayi’s linework in this painting traces the trajectory of the spears.
In this work, Tjungurrayi employs his signature two-tone palette and rhythmic linework to create an artwork that vibrates with the energy of spears hurtling through space. The complex optical striping also references the traditional technique of fluted wood carving and the paths of the Tingari, a group of ancestral Dreaming beings whose adventures created and transformed the landscape.