Region: Western Desert
Community Centre: Kintore
Outstation: Kiwirrkuru, West of Lake Mackay
Language Bloc: Western Desert
Social Affiliations:Tjapaltjarri subsection
Medium/ Form: Acrylic paint on canvas
He paints parts of the Tingari Cycle associated with his sacred sites - including
Wilkinkarra, Maruwa, Tarrku, Njami and Yarrawangu, which are important rockholes,
sandhills, sacred mountains and water soakages within the Gibson Desert.
Thomas Tjapaltjarri was born in the Gibson Desert in the early 1960's and is a member
of the Pintupi tribe who live in the Gibson Desert. The sensation in October 1984 was
that Thomas and 8 other members of his tribe walked out of the desert from the 'Stone
Age' into the 20th century. While all the other Aboriginals in the area were being
settled on government stations further east, their small family group escaped the net.
They continued to live the traditional aboriginal life of nomadic hunter-gatherers,
it was a mode of existence sanctioned by millennia.
Travelling along the ancient 'songlines' within their harsh but beautiful environment,
performing the time-honoured rituals and ceremonies of their culture, they had no contact
with the modern world of 'white' twentieth-century Australia until 1984. It was then
that they were 'found' by a party from a recently re-settled aboriginal outstation at
Kiwirrkuru. The discovery created international headlines. It also created a new life
for the wandering 'tribe'. Needing to find wives from outside the immediate family, they
moved to Kiwirrkuru, the tiny settlement of some hundred and eighty people, regarded as
'the most isolated town in Australia'.
In 2000 -2002 he started to paint. His brothers, both very famous artists, Warlimpirrnga
and Walala, inspired him to do so. The subjects of his painting are the 'Tingari Cycle',
a series of sacred and mythological songs, connected to his birthground. His Tingari Cycle
paintings are associated with the artist's Dreaming sites, located throughout the vast
sandhill country of W.A.'s Gibson Desert. It was at Kiwirrkuru that Thomas began to paint
on canvas, setting down the stories and images of an unbroken cultural tradition stretching
back tens of thousands of years, and setting them down with a rare intensity and assurance.
This style is characterized by its rectangular shapes and lines surrounded by dots.
The strength of his work was recognised at once and is very popular today. His style is
strongly gestural and boldly graphic, one that is generally highlighted by a series of
rectangles set against a monochrome background.