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Tiger Palpatja

Wanampi Story - 2007

synthetic polymer paint on canvas
122 x 197cm
Price Realised: $5,800.00

MP #296


Tjala Arts, Amata, SA Cat No. TJA-7-0715
Birrung Gallery, NSW Cat No. 405-07
Cooinda Gallery, Coffs Harbour, NSW
Private Collection, USA

Though he began paintings on canvas at the late age of 85, Tiger Palpatja's colourful, lively compositions immediately attracted acclaim from the art world. His use of primary colours with softer pinks and greens reflect the austere power of his red desert country that is threaded through with sudden oases of breathtaking beauty. The Wanampi water snake (the main focus of his work,) created this country and is believed to be the ancestor of the Pitjantjatjara people. The non-poisonous snake lives in the Piltati waterholes, found in the lower hills of the Mann Ranges, South Australia, close to where Tiger was born and where he spent his early years, living a traditional nomadic life with his family.

Tiger was a traditional healer (ngangkari) and ceremonial leader as well as a carver of objects and spears. In his later years he moved further towards his home country, and this saw a further freeing up of his style. His painterly flair revelled in the physicality of paint texture and the vibrant effects of colour against colour.

He was a senior custodian for the Wanampi creation story, which was central to his identity and still instructs people in the reciprocal relationship between men and women. The story tells of the frustration between two brothers and their wives. The men were spending too much time on their ceremonial activities so the women stopped providing food for them. The men then tricked the women by turning themselves into snakes and leaving enticing snake trails nearby which prompted the women to start digging vigorously and deeply, after the food. When one sister eventually speared a snake, the injured and angered men swallowed the women whole and retreated forever into the holes, channels and gullies that the women had dug throughout the country.

Through his vibrant paintings on canvass Tiger offers us a window into the soul of the earth, forged from his own song cycles and feel for the land.