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Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art
Desert Painting from 1975 gallery

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Paddy JUPURRURLA NELSON

Warlpiri people

Australia 1919 – 1999

Paddy JAPALJARRI SIMS

Warlpiri people

Australia 1917 – 2010

Kwentwentjay JUNGURRAYI SPENCER

Warlpiri people

Australia 1919 – 1990

Yanjilypiri Jukurrpa (Star Dreaming) 1985 Yuendumu, Western Desert, Northern Territory, Australia
Painting, synthetic polymer paint on canvas
372 h x 171.4 w cm
framed (overall) 3725 h x 1720 w x 40 d mm
Purchased 1986
Accession No: NGA 86.1798
© Kwentwentjay Jungurrayi Spencer. Licensed by Viscopy
© Paddy Jupurrurla Nelson. Licensed by Viscopy
© Paddy Japaljarri Sims. Licensed by Viscopy

MORE DETAIL

  • The Warlpiri-speaking community of Yuendumu lies approximately 100 kilometres north of Papunya in the Northern Territory. It was established in 1946 by the Australian government to deliver rations and welfare services to Aboriginal people in the surrounding district. Yuendumu was the first Aboriginal community in the Western Desert region to begin painting for the art market, after Papunya. Senior Warlpiri men knew of developments at Papunya in the 1970s, but were reluctant to paint for the public domain. In the early 1980s, the first artists at Yuendumu to produce paintings were Warlpiri women. Then, in 1983, a group of senior men including Paddy Sims, Larry Spencer and Paddy Nelson, painted the 30 doors of the local school with Jukurrpa images to remind the students of their traditional education. The project encouraged this senior group and other Warlpiri artists to paint on canvas on a large scale for exhibition. Within two years they had established their own art centre, Warlukurlangu Artists.

    Yanjilypiri Jukurrpa (Star Dreaming) 1985 is one of the first large canvases to emerge from Yuendumu. This magnificent work by three senior Warlpiri men relates to the fire ceremony of the Warlpiri, and is associated with the creation of the constellations. While the artists remained circumspect about the deeper levels of interpretation of the imagery, they described the dominant central motif as a ceremonial ground painting upon which the Fire Ceremony is performed. Participants shake smouldering branches and the embers float into the night sky to create the constellations represented by the circles and stars surrounding the ground painting. In turn, the ground painting can be seen as an evocation of the earth.

    A feature of Yuendumu paintings is that many are produced collaboratively. Contributors are involved as either kirda (owners of the Jukurrpa through the patrilineal line) or as kurdungurlu (managers of the Jukurrpa through the matrilineal line). Jimija Jungurrayi Spencer (1908–1989), the owner of the Star Dreaming, supervised this painting but did not participate. The main painter was Paddy Nelson who had matrilineally-inherited rights to the Dreaming. Paddy Sims and Jimija’s younger brother, Larry Spencer, assisted.

    Franchesca Cubillo


    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

  • One of the first large canvases to emerge from Yuendumu, north-west of Alice Springs, this magnificent work by three senior Warlpiri men pertains to the fire ceremony of the Warlpiri people, which is associated with the creation of the constellations. While the artists have wished not to say more about it, clearly it shares in the approach by desert painters generally, in which the events that took place in ancestral times are portrayed through signs and icons within an aerial view of the landscape.

    The painting is based on ceremonial ground paintings, and like ground paintings is a collaborative work by several artists. Kwentwentjay Jungurrayi Spencer, owner of the Dreaming/Tjukurrpa, supervised the painting but did not participate. The main painter was Paddy Jupurrurla Nelson, a leading artist in the community who had matrilineally inherited rights to the Dreaming/Tjukurrpa. Paddy Japaljarri Sims and Kwentwentjay Jungurrayi Spencer’s younger brother, Larry Jungurrayi Spencer, assisted.


    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

  • Yuendumu community is best known for the production of large collaborative works involving several artists. Contributors are involved as either owners (kirda) or managers (kurdungurlu). The use of a vivid palette is also an identifying feature of work emanating from Yuendumu. The expression of the narrative is akin to the approach by desert painters generally, where an aerial view of the landscape and the events that took place in ancestral times is expressed through a painted language of signs and icons.

    One of the first large-scale canvases to emerge from Yuendumu, Yanjilypiri Jukurrpa(Star Dreaming) is the work of three Warlpiri men. This magnificent work pertains to the fire ceremony of the Warlpiri people, associated with the creation of the constellations. Further information about this work is restricted, the owners of the image preferring not to divulge a full description. The collaboration of several artists reflects how ceremonial ground drawings are made, on which this work is based. Whilst Jimmy Jungarayi Spencer, owner of the Dreaming, supervised the painting, he did not participate. The main painter was Paddy Jupurrurla Nelson, a leading artist in the community who has matrilineally inherited rights to the Dreaming. Paddy Japaljarri Sims and Jimmy Jungarrayi Spencer’s younger brother, Larry Jungarrayi Spencer, assisted.

    Susan Jenkins


    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002