Papunya Tula Artists

Community VII

28 November - 19 December 2015

exhibition essay

In the early 1970s, one of the greatest art movements of the 20th century was born at Papunya, a small community roughly 240km northwest of Alice Springs, home to displaced Pintupi and Luritja people who had been forced off their traditional lands. Today, the movement continues as vibrant as ever.

At its best, this art is both deeply beautiful and deeply political. From those initial gem-like boards of the 1970s, to the recent "minimalist" fields of Pintupi masters such as George Tjungurrayi and Yukultji Napangati, great paintings move their audiences  - viscerally and mentally. They attest to skill and innovation, immersing us in mesmeric surfaces. They document ways of seeing and interacting with the landscape, its undulating sand hills, sparse water-holes and majestic rock formations. They assert individuality, informed by a strong sense of community and shared history. They bring the lives and livelihoods of remote Australians to the cities of the world, and so encourage a dialogue that is needed as much today as it was in the 1970s.

Papunya Tula Artists was founded in 1972, pioneering a cooperative model of a company entirely owned by indigenous artists. Over the decades, the company has fostered individual careers of senior artists, at the same time giving back to the community as a whole through crucial initiatives such as the Western Desert Dialysis Appeal. The money generated from the sale of paintings also helped build a pool at Kintore, which has had an exponential impact on both mental and physical health outcomes in this community.

A community is nothing without its constituents. Each artist has a unique voice, and the paintings in our annual community shows always demonstrate the diversity and contemporaneity of work being produced by Papunya Tula artists today.
In the early 1970s, one of the greatest art movements of the 20th century was born at Papunya, a small community roughly 240km northwest of Alice Springs, home to displaced Pintupi and Luritja people who had been forced off their traditional lands. Today, the movement continues as vibrant as ever.

At its best, this art is both deeply beautiful and deeply political. From those initial gem-like boards of the 1970s, to the recent "minimalist" fields of Pintupi masters such as George Tjungurrayi and Yukultji Napangati, great paintings move their audiences  - viscerally and mentally. They attest to skill and innovation, immersing us in mesmeric surfaces. They document ways of seeing and interacting with the landscape, its undulating sand hills, sparse water-holes and majestic rock formations. They assert individuality, informed by a strong sense of community and shared history. They bring the lives and livelihoods of remote Australians to the cities of the world, and so encourage a dialogue that is needed as much today as it was in the 1970s.

Papunya Tula Artists was founded in 1972, pioneering a cooperative model of a company entirely owned by indigenous artists. Over the decades, the company has fostered individual careers of senior artists, at the same time giving back to the community as a whole through crucial initiatives such as the Western Desert Dialysis Appeal. The money generated from the sale of paintings also helped build a pool at Kintore, which has had an exponential impact on both mental and physical health outcomes in this community.

A community is nothing without its constituents. Each artist has a unique voice, and the paintings in our annual community shows always demonstrate the diversity and contemporaneity of work being produced by Papunya Tula artists today.