Walala 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…
Region: Kiwirrkurra (Gibson Desert), WA
DOB: c 1962
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. His style is strongly gestural and boldly graphic, one that is generally highlighted by a series of rectangles set against a monochrome background. He paints 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, Marua, 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.
Walala Tjapaltjarri at work in the Gallery Gondwana Studios.
Walala Tjapaltjarri was first introduced to painting in the mid ‘90’s 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 artefacts, 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.
At a recent solo show by Walala in a London Gallery, the producers of Robert Hughes’ series Beyond The Fatal Shore, an Oxford Television production for the BBC, PBS & ABC on Australian lifestyle and culture, became intrigued by the artist and had him in mind when developing the series’ episode on Indigenous issues.
In September 1999, a large BBC crew and Gallery Gondwana staff accompanied Walala Tjapaltjarri to Kiwirrkurra, his traditional country and one of the remotest communities in Australia. The episode retraces his family’s steps who had spent years prior to 1984 walking on spinifex clumps around Lake McKay so they didn’t leave footprints and wouldn’t be found. Lake McKay is a massive salt lake that was once an inland sea and has islands with fresh water springs. Walala and his family finally walked into Kiwirrkurra in 1984 due to a severe drought, which had dried up all of the springs and depleted the bush foods they had previously been surviving on. The documentary follows Walala and his family as a hunter gatherer society who were catapulted into the 20th century and how in just three years of painting he has risen to international success participating in several national and international solo and group exhibitions. His paintings are represented in private and public collections in Australia, Europe and the USA.
Walala 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 USA.
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