Pintupi people

Australia 1927 /1931 – 2006

Big Mob Puli 1997 Place made: Haasts Bluff, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Dimensions: 150.0 h x 330.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2008
Accession No: NGA 2008.807
Image rights: © the estate of the artist licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd
  • As a young boy, Long Tom Tjapanangka walked vast stretches of his country with his family from his birthplace, Lupal, near Lake Macdonald. As with many Western Desert males of his time, he grew up to work as a jackeroo and a police tracker using his intimate knowledge of the land.

    Tjapanangka commenced painting in the public domain in 1993, and was one of the few male artists represented by the Ikuntji Women’s Centre at Haasts Bluff (which had been established the year before). Many of Tjapanangka’s paintings depict the country around Haasts Bluff, Mereenie, Winparrku and Yamunturrngu (Mount Liebig) to the east of Papunya.

    In his work, Tjapanangka focuses on the sandhills and mountains that range across the desert, which he terms ‘puli tjunti’ meaning ‘many mountains’. In contrast to most Western Desert painters, who depict the landscape in plan view as though it were laid out like a map, Tjapanangka takes a profile or side-on view. The scale of this canvas draws the viewer into the country. The brush strokes, made at arm’s length, draw the eye from one side of the ranges to the other. The starkness of the composition, in which all superfluous elements have been removed, and the combination of bold line and flat colour lend the canvas an unexpected three-dimensional feel. The contrasting colours give the work a sense of heat, radiating off the mountains. But the dark ground makes the hills seem to float across the surface of the canvas, as if it were night, to continue beyond its edges.

    Kelli Cole

    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