Anatjari No. I Tjampitjinpa
Anatjari No. I Tjampitjinpa
1927 - 1999
Anatjari No. 1, Anitjari, Minjina, Minyina, Jampijinpa, Tjampitjimpa
Anatjari Tjampitjinpa was born and grew up at Ilyipi in Pintupi country west of Kiwirrkura and east of Jupiter Well in Western Australia. In 1964 he moved to Papunya with his three wives and their children as well as his brothers, Old Walter and Yarakula. Other members of his immediate family, including Milliga Napaljarri and Dinny Campbell, moved north to Balgo Hills. His son, Ray James Jangala, recalls that when he was about five years old they were found at Mukala by the Welfare Patrol, led by Jeremy Long, with Nosepeg Tjupurrula and a Tjampitjinpa from Papunya. Although he was an athletic warrior, Anatjari and his family had been surviving only on seed damper as there was nothing to eat or drink, the waters having dried up and the grasses having died. Though the Pintupi were the last group of Aboriginal people to be encountered by Europeans, the impact of settlement was more devastating than that experienced by other areas such as Arnhem Land. The government policy up to 1966 saw desert people from different tribal groups brought into designated Government settlements, thus ‘bringing them together in the most inappropriate social circumstances with detrimental effects on their cultural practice' (Caruana 1993: 98). This negative portrayal of migration does not fully depict Anatjari’s experience however. Having moved to Balgo during the early 1970’s to spend time with other members of his family, he returned only occasionally to Papunya, by which time the painting movement was well underway. He created only a few pencil and watercolour drawings for Geoffrey Bardon before moving between Balgo and Docker River and did not join the Papunya artists until the mid 1970’s, when he was lured by the collective identity of painters, joining together and influencing each other. This cross influence led to experimentation with the properties of paint and the development of distinct personal styles, increasingly distanced from their ceremonial origins. The basic elements of Western Desert art are ‘limited in number but broad in meaning‘ (Caruana 1993: 98) with the ceremonies and stories associated with the travels of the Tingari ancestors remaining a constant feature of Pintupi iconography. Anatjari favoured the most literal imagery, which featured dismembered circles floating above an unorganised plane of dotted colour. These ‘not only radiate centrifugally, beyond the apparent confines of the canvas, to encompass or imply a seemingly infinite sense of environmental space, but they also resonate with the mythic basis of social organization and tribal morality‘ (Clark: 2005: 62). Anatjari Tjampitjinpa’s paintings embody Clark’s description, with their minimal use of iconography, and include Bardon’s two main archetypes; those depicting travelling lines or journeys of the ancestors across the country, and those designating a specific place or locality. While there was a sameness about the imagery in all but a few works throughout his entire oeuvre, Anatjari’s masterpiece Snake Dreaming at Yunkurraya 1983, is a less conventional work, depicting the water site of Yunkurraya, the home of a large snake, set amongst sand hills. The painterly effect of the canvas brings to mind Bardon’s comment on the Aboriginal temperament as having a 'predilection to the sensitivity of touch'. He went on to say that ‘this is a haptic sensation, a physical quality and tactile, different entirely from the visual sensation in eyesight‘ (cited in Clark 2005: 59). In contrast to the visual preoccupation of ‘Western Perspectivism’ in landscape painting, this alternative way of seeing in Aboriginal art provides a window into the alien, unknown regions of Australia, ‘it is as if, to be acclimatised to the great Spinifex country at the heart of our continent, we had to be shown it through the eyes of the people who know the country most intimately‘ (Clark 2005: 61). Anatjari Tjampitjinpa was not a prolific artist. Having begun to paint in earnest in the mid 1970’s, he continued when, along with many Pintupi, he returned to his ancestral lands in the 1980’s following a change of federal government policy. He painted for Papunya Tula Artists throughout the 1980’s and remained a consistent and dedicated painter into the mid 1990’s by which time he had become frail. Because he moved throughout his life between the various Pintupi settlements as far north as Balgo Hills, he was instrumental in spreading information about the new acrylic painting amongst artists in places distant from Papunya, where it all began. His work appeared regularly in the National Aboriginal Art Award throughout the mid 1980’s and early 1990’s and was presented in the ‘Face of the Centre’ at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1985. His painting that toured the USA between 1988 and 1990 in the exhibition Dreamings: Art of Aboriginal was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia and his magnum opus, Travels of the Tingari Men created in the late 1970’s is in the collection of the Kelton Foundation. He died at the age of 70 after making an invaluable contribution to Western Desert arts ‘golden age’ through being a consistent and dedicated painter for more than 30 years.
Explore our artworks
See some of our featured artworks below