Willy Tjungurrayi, born circa 1930, is highly regarded for his paintings of Tingari Dreaming stories. Having relocated from his birthplace in Wilkinkarra to Haasts Bluff in the late 1950s, he eventually moved to Papunya and began painting for the Papunya Tula Artists in 1976. Tjungurrayi’s work centers on sacred Dreamings within the realm of men’s business and can be identified by sinuous lines, radiating concentric circles and geometric squares. His work references the landscape traversed by the Tingari during the creation period: soakages, sandhills and creek beds, designs that have also been used in ceremonial body painting. Evident in Tjungurrayi’s work, and characteristic of Western Desert Art, is the importance of colour in drawing connections between the physical landscape, cultural meanings and ceremonial body paint designs. White is a sacred colour, often indicating water soakages; red is representative of bloodlines and birth; yellow is associated with children and black associated with men.
In more recent times, Tjungurrayi has produced canvases spanned by wavy lines and dot work, as seen in Hail Storm at Kaakuratintja. In this work, Tjungurrayi tells the story of Tingari ancestors who set out on a journey to Kaakuratintja (Pintupi for Lake MacDonald) only to meet their demise in a ferocious hailstorm. Tingari stories present a strong example of the multiple meanings present within Aboriginal paintings. While denoted narrative meanings may be apparent to the uninitiated, the sacred cultural connotations and symbolism remain a mystery. Despite this there is an undeniable, albeit intangible, energy that pervades even the most basic narrative understanding of a painting.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
Holmes à Court, Perth
Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra
Aboriginal Art Museum, The Netherlands.