Thomas Tjapaltjarri paints the stories associated with the Pintupi people from the western desert. The designs in this painting are referred to as the Tingari Cycle – it recounts the extensive journeys of the Tingari ancestors as they covered the vast expanse of the Western desert to create land formations and teach traditional law to the Pintupi people.
Land formations from an aerial perspective are incorporated into the graphic images used in the paintings. These may include rock holes, clay pans, mountains or water courses featured in the stories about the travels of the ancestors. Tingari is instilled in a series of secret song lines and sacred men’s business. The artist uses journey lines or over dotting as a device to protect the highly secretive and private elements of their story.
Thomas has painted this story since he began painting in the early 1990’s.
Born in the Gibson Desert near Lake Mackay and east of Kiwirkurra c.1964, Thomas Tjapaltjarri was a member of a small group of nine Pintupi people who made international headlines when they walked out of the desert in 1984 due to severe drought. Until this time they had allowed no contact with Europeans and led a traditional nomadic lifestyle. His two elder brothers, Walimpiringa and Walala Tjapaltjarri are both acclaimed artists.
The subject of his paintings relates to the ‘Tingari ancestors’, the sacred sites, and water soakages in the Gibson Desert important to these ancestors and his people.
Warlimpirrnga, Takariya, Yalti and Yukultji still live between Kiwirrkurra and Kintore communities. Two brothers, Walala and Thomas, are both living in Alice Springs. The old ladies have passed away. All the siblings apart from Payirti are artists – Warlimpirrnga, Walala, and Thomas have gained international recognition as the Tjapaltjarri Brothers, and in 2007 Warlimpirrnga was described as “one of the greatest painters of the desert”. Yukultji too has had exhibitions in Sydney and New York.