Paddy Tjapaltjarri Sims (1916-2010) was born south-west of Yuendumu prior to contact with Europeans. He began painting in the early 1980’s while passing on his knowledge to many of the young men at the Yuendumu school. There was concern among the Warlpiri elders at the time, that the young people were loosing touch with their cultural identity. In 1984, the school principle asked the senior men to paint ancestral designs on the school doors. In all, thirty doors were painted by Paddy Sims, Paddy Stewart, and three other countrymen. The five artists let loose with loud pinks, purples and blues in a confident gestural style, revolutionary and raw but also determinedly political. This ‘eruption of painting’ was characterized by large brushstrokes and a ‘messy’ finish, clearly distinguishing it from the earthy ochres and hard edge precision of Papunya works.
After the doors were completed, thirteen huge collaborative canvases were painted by the men and brought south for the world to see. Their recognition and legitimization by the educational authorities at Yuendumu, helped to fuel the confident, flamboyant Warlpiri style that took the art world by surprise during the mid 1980’s. Over time Paddy Sims played a seminal role in refining this trademark style.
By 1986, Warlukurlangu Artists had been established and Paddy became one of its principle male artists. He was selected by The Power Gallery, Sydney University, to travel to Paris with five other Warlpiri men from Yuendumu to create a ground painting installation at the exhibition 'Magiciens de la Terre' at the Centre Georges Pompidou. The trip took place in May 1989 and the painting was received with world-wide acclaim.
Twelve years after their creation, having survived the harsh desert elements and school children’s graffiti, the ‘Yuendumu Doors’ were purchased by the South Australian Museum . They were taken away for a long period of restoration and subsequently toured nationally. In 2000 Paddy Sims and Paddy Stewart, the two principle participants, undertook to produce 30 etchings of the original Yuendumu Doors. Under the guidance of Basil Hall, Northern Editions Printmaker (Northern Territory University) they created a folio of prints that was received with great acclaim. It won the 16th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, for works on paper.
From the moment he began painting Paddy Sims’ was revered as one of the greatest of all Warlpiri male artists. His paintings were included in numerous landmark exhibitions. Amongst them was Dreaming: The Art of Aboriginal Australia, The Asia Society Galleries, New York, 1988; The Continuing Tradition, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1989; and Mythscapes: Aboriginal Art of the Desert, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1989.
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