Ronnie TJAMPITJINPA, Water Dreaming at Maparinya Enlarge 1 /1


Pintupi people

Muyinnga, west of the Kintore Ranges, Australia born 1943

Water Dreaming at Maparinya 1986 Place made: Kintore/Papunya, Western Desert, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Dimensions: 183.0 h x 198.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1987
Accession No: NGA 87.1834
Image rights: © the artist licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

Ronnie Tjampitjinpa was one of the youngest artists to join the original painting group at Papunya in 1971, although he only painted intermittently for the Papunya Tula Artists cooperative until about the time this work was made. Tjampitjinpa was also a driving force behind the outstation movement, which saw Aboriginal people leaving government settlements to return to live on their traditional lands. In 1981 Tjampitjinpa moved his family from Papunya to Walungurru in the Kintore Range in the far west of the Northern Territory. Here, back home in Pintupi country, Tjampitjinpa began to develop his characteristic, large-scale optical paintings composed of monumental shapes defined by series of parallel lines, of which Water Dreaming at Maparinya 1986is an early example.

The painting depicts a Water Dreaming site north-west of Walungurru, where soakage water is found deep underground. Maparinya is the home of two large Water Snake ancestors who are alluded to by the L-shape in the painting that refers to their boomerangs. This is a land rich in vital resources. The fecund nature of the place, inundated by rains, is suggested by the mesmerising optical effect produced by Tjampitjinpa’s painting technique: the dots of paint are placed so close together that they read as continuous lines; and the repetition of the outlines of shapes in parallel produces a visually pulsating surface from which the white roundels, representing lightning strikes, burst out of the picture plane. Tjampitjinpa refined and developed this technique in later paintings to produce canvases that resonate with the spiritual forces of the ancestral beings that vivify the landscape.

Wally Caruana

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