Patrick Tjungurrayi was born in Yalangerri near Jupiter Well c.1935. A Pintupi and Kukatja speaker, he walked in from the desert while on the Canning Stock Route, and moved in to the Old Balgo Mission which had been established in 1943. Here he worked building the stone houses and, after the community moved in 1962, constructing the church at the new Balgo site. He met and married Mirriam Olodoodi, Lucy Yukenbari's sister, at the church in Balgo but returned to Kintore shortly after while she remained in Balgo. Through the early 1980’s Patrick travelled to Christmas Creek, Docker River and a number of other Western Desert and coastal Kimberley communities doing a variety of jobs ranging from construction, labouring and working on boats until he rejoined his wife once more in Balgo Hills.
He started to paint when the Palatine brothers first supplied art materials in 1985 and, after the establishment of Warlayirti artists two years later, Patrick became a regular painter along with his older brother Brandy January Tjungurrayi and younger sister Elizabeth Nyumi Nungurayi. During the near decade that he painted for the Balgo Hills art centre, he and Brandy moved between their Pintupi homeland community of Kiwirrkura and Balgo Hills for important gatherings and ceremonies. They eventually resettled closer to their homeland and painted for Papunya Tula artists. Over time, Patrick’s and Brandy’s works of art showed the influence of both of these centres of art making.
Due in part to this cultural synthesis, Patrick Tjungurrayi’s work differs from that of other Papunya Tula male artists. His paintings are boldly enlivened by influences from Balgo, exhibiting a strong use of colour and vivid tonal contrasts. They are powerful, intensified by a flickering optical effect, while simultaneously conveying a sense of earthbound, ‘desert warmth’ (Crawford, 2005). At the same time as exhibiting Warlayirti artist’s strong attraction to colour, they maintain the tight formal structure of the Pintupi tradition associated with Papunya Tula art, as well as their preference for combining colours of similar tonal quality.
Patrick is a senior ‘Law Man’ who is custodian for ceremonies and country between Balgo, Kiwirrkura and Kintore. His paintings resonate with his deep ceremonial knowledge and authority as a respected leader amongst his people. The subject matter revolves around the mythical Tingari stories that underlie the creation of the sacred sites throughout his country Kallianku, west of Jupiter Well. This is a site that is associated with the Rain Dreaming where in mythological times two Tingari men, Tjapaltjarri and Tjampitjinpa, travelled from the north creating storms and lightning, which brought rain and caused the creeks to flow. The site is also associated with the travels of the Wati Kutjarra, the two initiated brothers who spent time here where water was plentiful during the creation period. In their sleep they would roll around on the ground while dreaming and leave paths marked in earth that became creeks. His paintings of Warriya, a claypan and lake, west of Kiwirrkura, are also associated with the Tingari creators who travelled eastwards through this site at the same time as two snake ancestors. Being a senior Law Man and custodian, he also paints the Rain Dreaming site of Putinjana, another special ‘Law’ ground for men only and well as Wanawarra, the Rainbow Serpent.
Patrick Olodoodi was a successful member of Warlayirti artists while he lived and worked in Balgo Hills. However he was not regarded as an artist of major importance while he lived there. His canvases tended to be small, rarely larger than 120 x 80 cm, and these were never put aside for exhibitions in which his work would be distinguishable from that of any of a number of other more prolific artists. He moved back to Kiwirrkurra, closer to his country around 1995 and, after traveling between the two communities for several years, eventually settled at Kiwirrkura toward the end of the 1990’s, painting for Papunya Tula artists since that time. His success as an artist has been consolidated since 2000, with his inclusion in the landmark exhibition Papunya Tula Genesis and Genius at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and a number of other key exhibitions including his entry in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Art Award for the first time in 2004. He has worked on larger canvases since then and his major works have appeared in important Papunya Tula Artist exhibitions at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi and Scott Livesey Gallery in Melbourne, A.P.Bond in Adelaide, Utopia Art in Sydney and John Gordon Gallery in Coffs Harbour. With many of the important Papunya men painting for independent dealers outside of the company in recent years, Patrick Tjunurrayi’s paintings with Papunya Tula provenance have become highly sought after, and will remain so, as long as he continues to paint significant works of quality.
While Patrick Tjungurrayi began painting in 1985, it is the works he has painted for Papunya Tula since 1997 that have become by far his most collectable. This is a very recent phenomenon, with the majority of his successful works sold between 2005 and 2009 during which 13 of the 26 works offered have sold for an average of $13,208. Yet every single one of the seven paintings on offer between 2001 and 2003 had failed to sell. Fortunately, his reputation, in the secondary market at least, is built on the seven works sold of eight offered between the beginning of 2005 and the end of 2006. With only six of 18 paintings selling during the following two years his importance as a collectable artist is likely to depend very much on whether he is able to create enough high quality major works while he is active as a painter. Certainly, there are some very promising signs that his career in the primary market and his rating at auction should increase sharply over the next decade. In what I consider the most important indicator, his ten highest results have all been achieved since 2005. Prior to 2015 his top five results averaged $21,938 while his next five averaged $10,001, excluding the resale of his top selling work in 2010. However in 2015 the sale of an untitled 2005 work for $45,600 in the Deutscher & Hackett Laverty sale set a new high water mark for this artist, though the catalogue had valued it at just $12,000-18,000. A much larger work of equal quality and provenancne in the Deutscher & Hackett Important Aboriginal Art sale that same year failed to garner interest carrying a far more realistic presale estimate of $40,000-60,000. The following year, another large work with very similar provenance (the work came from the famous Luczo Collection with Papunya Tula provenance) sold for $34,160 against a reasonalbe presale estimate of $35,000 - 55,000, making it his 3rd best result at the time.
Prior to 2007 his record price stood at $14,400 for an atypical untitled work created in 2000 for Papunya Tula Artists. The work measuring 122 x 183 cm sold at Lawson~Menzies with a presale estimate of $14,000-18,000 in May 2005 (Lot 133). However, when it appeared once more at Lawson~Menzies just over two months later in November 2007, (Lot 176) it carried a hefty $22,000-25,000 and, despite having held his record, failed to find a buyer.
By this time Lawson~Menzies had set a new record in their May 2007 sale, which stood at $43,200 until eclipsed in 2015. Warriya 2003, a Papunya Tula work measuring 183 x 152 cm was estimated at $40,000-50,000 (Lot 15). In June Joel’s Fine Art sold another work, Kaliangu 2002, for $20,891 against an estimate of $18,000-25,000 (Lot 74) while Sotheby’s achieved $17,400 for Yunula in November (Lot 56) so that by the end of 2007 the record price had been beaten three times despite successful sales for only four of the eight works offered during the year. Interestingly, two of the four failures were paintings sourced from dealers other than Papunya Tula and no Warlayirti Artist’s works appeared.
The highest price paid for a Balgo art centre work has been My Lilly 2001, a work measuring 150 x 100 cm which achieved $11,400 at Lawson~Menzies in November 2006 (Lot 75).
While Patrick Tjungurrayi’s records are still fairly scant, it is his major works which have dominated his results, with his lowest sales and unsold works almost universally being smaller canvases. During 2009, only two works were offered and both failed to attract buyers despite being larger works in a style comparative to his premier sales. Perhaps the estimates of $15,000-20,000 were overly ambitious at that time. Auction houses threw caution to the wind during 2010 with three works carrying low estimates as high as $30,000. Of these three, only one work sold. Previously named Warriya 2003, it had set the artist’s current record price of $43,200 when sold through Lawson~Menzies in May 2007. This time around, Sotheby’s listed it as Untitled 2003 in their November sale (Lot 51) and achieved $27,600; nearly $15,000 less. The four works sold in 2007 averaged $23,822 and lifted his career average from $6,063 to $11,528 in just one year, something to make any investor sit up and take notice. As a result, at the beginning of 2008 Olodoodi was forecast to become one of the most collectable of all Papunya artists over the next decade. This caused vendor’s expectations, and thus estimates, to rise too high too fast. A flurry of failures resulted over the following two years.
Patrick Oloodoodi's success rate at auction is now just 39% (having dropped from 50% since 2008). It would be reasonable to expect that, until the market improves considerably, his prices for anything other than his finest major works of excellent provenance, will fall in line with the economic outlook. In the meantime collectors should stand ready to acquire anything of size, with good provenance, under $10,000-15,000.