Australia 1912 – 1980
Lightning Man at Kalipinypa
[Untitled (No.15)] 1972
Collection Title: The Peter Fannin Collection of Early Western Desert Paintings
Place made: Papunya, Western Desert, Northern Territory, Australia
Creation Notes: October/ November 1972
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on composition board
Walter Tjampitjinpa hailed from the remote location of Ilypili in the Northern Territory. He had lived a traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle before moving to the settlement of Papunya and, as with many of the early artists, he remembers when he first had contact with white people. Walter was known by his countrymen by the nickname ‘Tjeinadjara’, which refers to the neck-chain he once was made to wear when he was arrested for stealing cattle. He was to become one of the primary figures in the early Papunya Tula art movement, referred to as ‘Old Walter’, with the authority to enable the painting of the first murals on the Papunya school walls.
Tjampitjinpa was a senior custodian of the important Water Dreaming site at Kalipinypa. The main feature of this composition is the Water Dreaming design consisting of two sets of roundels joined by long meandering lines. Beside each of the roundels is a U-shape, indicating the Lightning Man. To either side are depictions of oval boards that carry another Rain Dreaming design of parallel meanders with adjacent bars, which represent clouds. The footprints of the Lightning Man as he takes the storm across the land can be seen running from one site to the other. The ground of the painting consists of areas of hatching and dotting that refer to ceremonial body decorations while intimating the fertilising nature of water across the land.
 V Johnson, Lives of the Papunya Tula artists, IAD Press, Alice Springs, 2008, p 21.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010