1924 - 2000
Wimindji, Wimminji, Tjapangarti, Tjapangardi
Born in Kutakurtal around 1924, Wimmitji Tjapangarti moved to the old Balgo mission in 1943 as a young initiated man. He began painting alongside his wife Eubena Nampitjin when in his 60’s and together, they created a unique shared aesthetic 'quite different from that of the other Balgo painters' (Watson 1997: 49). Their early works, produced at the Adult Education Centre, were predominantly rendered in a palette of browns with areas of white dotting and lines, which from the outset were identifiably more detailed and refined than works by their contemporaries. As the Warlayirti Art Centre developed during the early 1990’s from a one room ‘donger’ and moved into a former accommodation block, the two artists began to paint more individually and their works exhibited growing differentiation. While the artistic evolution of Balgo art was influenced by the progressive introduction of new acrylic paints, Wimmitji did not employ the floral colours, pastel greens and pinks, which were available from 1989 onwards. He did however add new shades of red and yellow in creating his minutely detailed cartographic renditions of his country and the stories relating to it. Despite speaking little, if any, English, Wimmitji’s intimate knowledge of his country and Dreaming narratives proved extremely helpful in assisting Ronald and Catherine Berndt (1989) with their book The Speaking Land: Myth and Story in Aboriginal Australia. He also worked with Father Anthony Peile to compile the Kukatja dictionary and various articles on medical subjects. Wimmitji’s paintings are visually complex and contain a vast amount of knowledge within each single composition. The intricacy and textural richness were achieved with spontaneous outpourings of dotting, and myriad surface treatments. The disciplining force was the spiritual dimension of the story, related by a cultural custodian of the highest degree. Wimmitji was a mapan (traditional healer) of unsurpassed knowledge and ceremonial importance amongst the members of the Wangkajunga society. His painting style and earthy palette gave the best of his works a look of great age and this, no doubt, added to perceptions of their authenticity, 'though from his own perspective it would have been drawn from his deep involvement with the law' (Johnson 1994: 209). Wimmitji continued painting until his death in 2000 despite his frailty and almost total blindness from the mid 1990’s onwards. In this later period of his life he seemed to live entirely lost to the everyday world, thoroughly immersed in his Dreaming. On approach you would find him muttering chants, as he painted completely oblivious to the world around him. He gave the impression that he existed unseparated from the earth; that he traveled through an interior space where physical dimension is non-existent. With eyes closed to barely visible slits and tiny hands shaking as he applied dots to the canvas, he seemed far away in the land of his Dreaming as he sang up the ancestors and joined with the spirits of the land.
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