Area: Central & Western Desert
Born: c 1935 Doctor George Ward Tjapaltjarri was born southwest of Jupiter Well in the Gibson Desert, Western Australia. In 1964 he met a renowned tracker, Nosepeg Tjunkata Tjupurrula, because of whom he had his first contact with white men. The title ”Doctor” refers to his position as a traditional medicine man of his people. His traditional country includes Karrinwara, west of Kintore, and Kilingya in Wenampa located to the west of Jupiter Well. As well as a medicine man, Doctor George is an important Pintupi elder responsible for the initiation of young men into the cultic life. This responsibility entails revealing to them the esoteric knowledge connected with the ‘Tingari Cycle’. Bold series of horizontal and vertical lines represent ceremonial body paint designs worn by young men during Malliera initiation ceremonies. The site associated with these designs is Pulpulna in the Gibson Desert of Western Australia, Dr George’s traditional country. The body paint designs appear to imply a strong association with the desert landscape, its soakages, sandhills and creek beds. The raw body paint markings emulate the tradition and power of the sacred story they are connected to. Doctor George is most renowned for his Tingari paintings. Dreamings associated with the Tjingari are of a secret and sacred nature as it is important men’s business, which forms the foundation of much of their law. Colours in relation to painting hold great significance in the Western Desert. Dr George utilises the traditional colours present in raw pigment, clay and charcoal, which are: red, yellow, white and black. The concentric design is typical of ”Tingari Dreaming” and in part relates to the great expanses covered by the Tingari in the ”Mythological Creation Period”. The Tingari beings travelled to particular desert regions in order to create landforms and teach law. The colour white is significant, usually depicting the presence of much needed water. Doctor George’s style is an excellent example of the multivalent nature present in Aboriginal art; meaning the designs used in the paintings often have many interrelated and symbolic meanings. The surface narrative elements, or the painting’s ‘story’ or ‘Dreaming’ are one of the many layers of an Aboriginal painting’s meaning. The imagery utilised by Aboriginal artists has deep cultural resonances, which defy logic and narrative interpretations. The western viewer can however, intuitively feel the power of the spiritual resonance without necessarily having to understand the details which are known by the initiated.
2000 Performing Arts Centre, Darwin, NT
1999 The Living Dreaming, Art New York, USA: Original & Authentic Aboriginal Art, Melbourne
1989 Mythscapes, Aboriginal Art of the Western Desert, National Gallery of Victoria
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Museums and art galleries of Alice Springs and Northern Territory.
Aboriginal Art Museum, The Netherlands.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory.