By the 1990s, Pinta Pinta Tjapanangka was one of the most senior men painting at Papunya Tula Artists. His late works—such as Watanuma—revived the classic “circle and track” iconography that brought Papunya Tula artists acclaim during the 1970s and 80s. Often restricting himself to a palette of black and white, Pinta Pinta would surround these iconic forms with a sculptural occlusion of dots, slowly building up the surface of the canvas into a dense field of blinding white. Despite their formal differences, the subjects of Pinta Pinta’s paintings are very close to those of his son Nyilyari Tjapangati. Both artists depict narratives related to the Tingari: ancestral beings who travelled over vast stretches of the desert during the Tjukurrpa (Dreaming), creating sacred sites and instituting ceremonies. Where his father uses the circle and track style indicating precious water sources with concentric circles, Nyilyari uses concentric diamonds. Where Pinta Pinta uses straight or curved lines to connect these circles, Nyilyari uses an interlocking key design, derived from the designs painted or carved on men’s ceremonial objects. Unlike his father, Nyilyari does not use dotting to in-fill his backgrounds. Rather, he covers the entire background with white, before scratching an echo of his figures into the surface of the paint using a stick or paintbrush. The fading repetition of the principal motifs gives Nyilyari’s work a mirage-like pulse evocative of the shimmering desert heat. The effect is a throbbing visual “hum” like the after-image of a blinding flash, alluding to the continuing presence of the Tingari ancestors in the land.
From the 2019 exhibition A World of Relations, guest curated by Henry Skerritt, Mellon Curator of Indigenous Arts of Australia at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia
ANTH 15, Political Anthropology, Elena Turevon, Fall 2019
A World of Relations, Evelyn A. Jaffe Hall Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26-December 8, 2019.
Will Owen (1952-2015) and Harvey Wagner (1931-2017), Chapel Hill, North Carolina; given to present collection, 2014.
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