Artist Thomas Tjapaltjarri
Thomas Tjapaltjarri was born c. 1964 in the Gibson Desert, Western Australia. In 1984 he was one of a group of nine that made national headlines. Dubbed “the Last Nomads” the group caused a sensation when thy walked out of the desert and made contact with the “modern” world for the first time.
Leading a completely traditional existence before this time they were finally forced out of the desert to seek eligible wives for Thomas and his brothers Warlimpirrnga and Walala. Three years later Thomas commenced painting for Papunya Tula artists after encouragement from Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri. Of the original group who emerged from the desert in 1984 the nomadic streak remains strongest perhaps in Thomas. Now an established and gifted artist Thomas paints in a style similar to that of his brothers.The stories or “dreamings” of the Tingari Cycle are an important body of myth concerning the early journey paths of Tingari Ancestors throughout the “Tjukurrpa” or Dreamtime. It is these stories which Thomas conveys through his skilful brushwork across the canvas.
Thomas Tjapaltjarri was born sometime around 1964 in the Gibson Desert, Western Australia. Thomas and his family which includes fellow artists Warlimpirrnga, Walala, Yukultji, Yalti and Tjakaria led a completely nomadic life until they emerged from the desert, coming to Kiwirrkurra in 1984. Dubbed “the Last Nomads” or “the Pintupi nine”, they had had no contact with western society until this point. Amazingly, he transitioned from an utterly traditional lifestyle to commencing as an artist within a matter of a few years and painting the traditional stories of his people.
Thomas paints simple, geometric designs and uses a dotting technique shared with other Pintupi artists such as his brothers, Warlimpirrnga and Walala, and with Willy and George Ward Tjungurrayi. Thomas’s works explore the stories of the Tingari cycle. Tingari are the legendary beings of the Pintupi people that travelled the desert performing rituals, teaching law, creating landforms and shaping what would become ceremonial sites. As far as we can know, the meanings behind Tingari paintings are multi-layered, however, those meaning are not available to the uninitiated.
Thomas, along with his brothers Walala and Warlimpirringa, has exhibited widely in almost all aboriginal galleries in Australia and overseas. They include: Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney; Cooee Gallery, Sydney; Artitja Fine Art, WA; Aranda Art, Melbourne; Gallery Woo Mang, Paris; and many many more.
- Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne, VIC
- Similarly, Thomas’ work is widely collected both in Australia and overseas.