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MODERN & CONTEMPORARY ART

George 'Hairbrush' Tjungurrayi

“The shapes and lines can be read as representations of waterholes and the ripple marks on the sand caused by the wind. When considered in a Western art-historical context, the optical effects created by colliding colours are reminiscent of Minimalism and Op Art."
Presentation for the 21st Biennale of Sydney.

George 'Hairbrush' Tjungarrayi was born around 1947 at Wala Wala, west of Kiwirkura in Pintupi country in the Western Desert. In 1962, he arrived in Papunya where he worked as a welfare patrol guide. During periods of intermittent work, George began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in 1976. Since his first two solo exhibitions in 1997 at the Utopia Art Gallery in Alice Springs and at the Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi in Melbourne in 1998, he has become one of the master painters of contemporary Pintupi art. 

George’s early works from the 1970s and early 1980s depicted Tingari imagery by dotted grids on lines and circles in traditional ochres. The Tingari describes a group of mythical, spiritual ancestors who shaped the landscape and sacred sites of the Western Desert. In the mid-1980s, he experimented with new styles, including a wider range of colors in works that reflected ceremonies and stories about the journeys of his ancestors told through sacred songs of the Tingari.

After his first prominent exhibition in Alice Springs in 1990, George moved away from figurative painting towards more abstract and linear work that depicts the traditional Tingari Dreaming Cycle. This is a collection of religious stories, ceremonies and laws that were transmitted to the inhabitants of the Western Desert by the Tingari. Through fine lines and beautiful geometric patterns, George portrays in an abstract style the major sacred sites of the Tingari, such as caves and sand hills, as well as their dreamtime stories. His works belong to the same genre as those of Ronnie Tjampitjinpa and Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula.

Exhibited

Solo exhibitions of Tjungurrayi’s work include Paintings, Utopia Art, Sydney (2016); Pulka Canvas, Utopia Art, Sydney at The Depot Gallery, Sydney (2013); Space & Place, Utopia Art, Sydney (2011); Between the Lines, Utopia Art, Sydney (2008); Paintings from Mamultjulkulnga and Kirrimalunya, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne (2003); Unforeseen 1989 to 2002, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane (2003); New Fields, Utopia Art, Sydney (2002); and George Tjungurrayi – first solo show, Utopia Art, Sydney (1997).

Selected group exhibitions include Abstraction of the World, Duddell’s x Biennale of Sydney, Duddell’s, Hong Kong (2017); Cornucopia, Utopia Art, Sydney (2016); Sydney Contemporary, Carriageworks, Sydney (2015); Sublime Point: The Landscape in Painting, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre, Gymea (2014); Volume One: MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2012); 40 Years of Papunya Tula Art, Utopia Art, Sydney (2011); Desert Country, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2010); and Western Desert Satellites, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth (2006).

Tjungurrayi’s work is held in a number of collections, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Groninger Museum, the Netherlands; Musée national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie, Paris; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Seattle Art Museum, Washington; Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, Darwin; and University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Artwork and technique 

George has perfected a minimalist and abstracted style of painting that is characterised by intersecting parallel lines that bend with subtle optical rhythm. His works, based on his country and culture, symbolise ancestral journeys and ceremonial body paint. In particular, George paints the Tingari stories of his ancestral country which covers the sites around Kiwirrkura, Lake Mackay, Kulkuta, Karku, Ngaluwinyamana and Kilpinya. It has been suggested that his imagery is drawn from the distinctive Western Desert style of 'fluted' carving; fine parallel lines incised into the wood and coated with ochres that were embellished on men's ceremonial boomerangs and shields.

The delicate fine lines and use of strong color with a limited palette not only provide a convincing impact but also lend his works an aura of spiritual strength. They often create a subtle optical illusion, infusing the work with liveliness and dynamism. His prominence today derives from the fundamentally abstract and modern nature of his works. It has been said of his works that  “[t]hey have no focus but invite the viewer to enter a crucial cultural performance. The energy and life-force enacted onto the painted surface evokes sensations and sensibilities that must primarily be experienced and felt.”


SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

2021 38th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
2020 ‘Desert Painters of Australia - Two Generations’, Gagosian Gallery, Hong Kong, China
2020 ‘Reflections on Emily and Papunya’, High Line Nine, New York, USA
2019 ‘Desert Painters of Australia’, Gagosian Gallery, New York; Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles, USA - from the Steve Martin & Anne Springfield Collections and Kluge-Ruhe Collection of the University of Virginia, USA
2019 Art Miami, SmithDavidson Gallery, Miami USA.
2018 EXPO Chicago, SmithDavidson Gallery, Chicago, USA.
2018 ‘Superposition: Equilibrium and Engagement’, 21st Biennale of Sydney, Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia
2016 Wynne Prize 2016 for 'the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours by Australian artists’, Finalist.
2016 Art New York, New York, USA
2015 'Signs and Traces. Contemporary Aboriginal Art’, Zamek Cultural Centre, Poznan, Poland
2014/2015 ‘ART & INTERIOR Modern Aboriginal Art’, Marcel Wolterinck, Laren, The Netherlands
2014 ‘Sublime Point: the Landscape in Painting’, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Hazelhurst, Australia
2013 ‘No Boundaries’, Bayside Arts & Cultural Centre, Melbourne, Australia
2012 ‘Volume One: MCA Collection’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
2012 ‘Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection’, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Australia
2012 ‘Unique Perspectives: Papunya Tula Artists and the Alice Springs Community, Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
2011 28th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
2011 ‘Sister, Brother Nyarrumparra’, Papunya Tula Artist Gallery, Alice Springs, Australia
2010 27th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
2010 ‘Desert Country’, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
2010 ‘The Desert Mob Art Show’, Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
2010 Wilkinkarralakutu - Journeys to Lake Mackay’, Cross Cultural Art Exchange, Darwin, Australia
2010 ‘Tradition & Innovation - Papunya Tula 2010’, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
2009 26th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
2009 ‘Papunya 2009: Senior Pintupi Artists’, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
2009 ‘Painting the Country’, Cross Cultural Art Exchange, Darwin, Australia
2009 ‘Nganampatju Kanpatja Winki, Nganampatju Yara Winkii - All Our Paintings, All Our Stories’, Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs, Australia
2008 ‘Ngurra Yurru Kulintjaku - Always Remembering Country’, Cross Cultural Art Exchange, Darwin, Australia
2008 ‘The Desert Art Mob Show’, Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
2008 TogArt Contemporary Art Award, Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
2007 24th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
2007 ‘Papunya Tula 2007’, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
2007 ‘Recent Paintings 2007’, Cross Cultural Art Exchange, Darwin, Australia
2007 ‘Pintupi - Mixed Exhibitions’, Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs Australia
2006 ‘Western Desert Satellites', Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
2006 Yawulyurru kapalilu paylara nintilpayi’, Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs, Australia
2005 ‘Pintupi Artists’, Papunya Tula Artists. Alice Springs, Australia
2005 ‘Papunta Tula Artists’, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
2004 ‘Papunta Tula Artists’, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
2004 ‘Talking About Abstraction, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, College of Fine Arts - University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
2004 ‘The Inner and The Outer’, Stadtgalerie Bamberg, Villa Dessauer, Bamberg, Germany
2004 ‘Looking Closely at Country’, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, College of Fine Arts - University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
2004 ‘Pintupi Artists’, Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs, Australia
2004 ‘Mythology & Reality’, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, Australia
2003 20th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
2003 ‘Pintupi Artists’, Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs, Australia
2003 ‘Painters from Mamultjulkulnga and Kirrimalunya’, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
2002 ‘Meridian: Focus on Contemporary Australian Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
2002 ‘Structures of Difference’, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, USA
2002 ‘Pintupi Artists’, Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs, Australia
2001 ‘Dreamtime: The Dark and The Light’, Kunst der Gegenwart, Sammlung Essl, Vienna, Austria
2001 ‘Kintore, Kiwirrkura’, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
2001 ‘Art Aborigene’, Musee Olympic, Lausanne, Switzerland
2001 Pintupi Exhibition, Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs, Australia
2001 ‘In Concert’, Australian Academy of Science, Canberra, Australia
2001 ‘Aborigena’, Palazzo Bricherasio, Torino, Italy
2000 ‘Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
2000 Aboriginal Art, Aboriginal Art Gallery Bahr, Spreyer, Germany
2000 ‘Pintupi Men’, Papunya Tula ARtists, Alice Springs, Australia
1999 ‘New Horizons 2000’, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
1998 Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
1997 Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
1997 Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs, Australia
1996 C.A.A.A.C.E., Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
1996 ‘Pintupi Painters’, Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs, Australia
1996 Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
1996 Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
1996 Fringe Festival, Adelaide, Australia
1995 Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
1994 Group Show, Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs, Australia
1994 Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands
1994 ‘Pintupi Artists’, Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs, Australia
1990 Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Australia


Born in Kiwirkurra, Western Australia in 1947


Site: Monkey Rep