127 Career Overall Rank
- 2017 Market Rank
To be updated
Freddy West was one of Geoffrey Bardon’s first painting men. It was his fellow Pintupi tribesmen who had painted the famous Honey Ant mural on the Papunya school, which became the catalyst for an artistic explosion that eventually changed Australian culture at large. As a group, the Pintupi had remained somewhat isolated from the other tribal groups settled at Papunya. They camped on the western fringes of the town and adhered more closely to their traditional customs. This was to have positive consequences in unexpected ways, even though at the time they were considered 'wild' by others and were neglected to some degree. A very particular painting style emerged and its success was to give both psychological and financial impetus to their absolute determination to return to their homelands, far to the west in the Gibson Desert. They constantly worried that without the ongoing rituals of increase and perpetuation, their country and the land itself would be adversely affected. Bardon remembered Freddy working during the early 1970’s in the ‘great painting room’. He was always cheery, charismatic and quite dapper in appearance.
Freddy first encountered white people around 1963 as a young man, while still living a traditional nomadic lifestyle. He was full of suspicion, however, eventually the plentiful food supply at Papunya enticed him and many of his tribespeople to set off for the settlement. They left behind the difficult drought conditions and dwindling population of their desert homelands where Freddy’s own father had died from dehydration. The initial attractions offered by white society however, were quickly clouded by the conflict and disease that beset the overcrowded government project of Aboriginal assimilation. Once alcohol was discovered, the inhabitants of Papunya descended more and more into dissolution, dejection and moments of violent catastrophe. Freddy himself was jailed for a number of years after one such event. It was the painting movement that really turned the tide in a positive direction. It provided a new context for them to reassert their culture and to reaffirm their Tjukurrpa (Dreamings), the source of their religious beliefs and Law. Transferring the imagery of their culture to a permanent surface became a serious business, requiring great skill and inventiveness. Freddy participated first hand in these lengthy collaborations and spirited discussions about what could be revealed and by whom.
The Dreaming is when the Ancestors created the world. They shaped the land and its creatures, and laid out the moral code for humans to live by. The many Dreamings relate to specific geographical features, animals, plants and events. Knowledge and custodianship of these stories, songs and images is inherited from father and mother, and entails deep responsibility. Infringement on someone else's totems brings considerable anxiety and often punishment. Freddy inherited responsibility for country north of Kiwirrkurra, near the shores of the great salt lake Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay), and in particular, Snake Dreaming and the freshwater rock hole of Yunala. These form the subject of many of his paintings. His work is meticulous and precise, pulsating with concentric circles, squares and connecting lines, in-filled and accentuated with a veil of fine dots. Freddy spearheaded the return to this country and was the leader of the Kiwirrkurra outstation homestead during the 1980s, where he lived with his three surviving wives and most of his fifteen children. Vivien Johnson describes him as a ‘staunchly traditional man’. He had great skills for reading the land and surviving its arid conditions. Two of his wives and two of his sons have followed in his artistic footsteps.
Profile author: Sophie Pierce
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
The Holmes a Court Collection, Perth.
The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, U.S.A.
2009 - Papunya Classics featuring the following artists: Makinti Napanangka, Kanya Tjapangati, Joseph Jurra Tjapaltjarri, Tatali Nangala, Pirrmangka Napanangka, George Tjungurrayi, Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, Kenny Williams Tjampitjinpa, Alan Tjampitjinpa, Nolan Tjapangati, Freddy West Tjakamarra, Dini Campbell Tjampitjinpa at Utopia Art Sydney, Sydney.
2009 - Icons of the Desert: Early Aboriginal Paintings from Papunya including the following artists: Anatjari (Yanyatjarri) Tjakamarra, Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri, Charlie Tarawa (Tjararu) Tjungurrayi, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Freddy West Tjakamarra, George Tjangala, John Kipara Tjakamarra, Johnny Scobie Tjapanangka, Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, Kaapa Mbitjana Tjampitjinpa, Kingsley Tjungurrayi, Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra, Mick Namararri Tjapaltjarri, Old Walter Tjampitjinpa, Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, Shorty Lungkarta Tjungurrayi, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri, Tim Payungka Tjapangarti, Tommy Lowry Tjapaltjarri, Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, Uta Uta Tjangala, Willy Tjungurrayi, Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi, Yumpuluru Tjungurrayi, organised by the Herbert F.Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.
1993 - Tjukurrpa, Desert Dreamings, Aboriginal Art from Central Australia (1971-1993), Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth WA
1991/92 - Friendly Country, Friendly People, Touring Exhibition, through Araluen Centre, Alice Springs.
1991 - The Painted Dream: Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings from the Tim and Vivien Johnson Collection, Auckland City Art Gallery and Te Whare Taonga o Aoteroa National Art Gallery, New Zealand.
1990 - Paintings from the Desert, Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings, Plimsoll Gallery, Centre for the Arts, Hobart, Tasmania.
1988 - Papunya Tula Paintings, Wagga Wagga City Art Gallery, Wagga Wagga.
1985 - The Face of the Centre: Papunya Tula Paintings 1971-1984, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
1984 - The First National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
1984 - Papunya and Beyond, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs.
1982 - Georges Exhibition, Melbourne.
1977 - Nigerian Festival, Lagos, Nigeria.
1974 - Anvil Art Gallery, Albury.
Johnson, V., 1994, The Dictionary of Western Desert Artists, Craftsman House, East Roseville, New South Wales. (C).
Stanton, J.E., 1988, Innovative Aboriginal Art of Western Australia, Occasional Paper 1, The University of Western Australia Anthropology Research Museum, Nedlands, Western Australia. (C).
1993, Tjukurrpa Desert Dreamings, Aboriginal Art from Central Australia (1971-1993), exhib. cat., Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth. (C)
Bardon, G., and J.Bardon, The Megunyah Press, Melbourne, 2004.
Johnson, Vivien.(Editor), Papunya Painting: Out of the Desert, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 2007.
Bardon, G. 2004. Papunya: A Place Made After the Story: The Beginnings of Western Desert Painting Movement. Victoria. Melbourne University Publishing.
Johnson, Vivien. 2008. Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists. Australia. IAD Press.
Snake , Tingari
Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen and Canvas