This website was developed for the exhibition Irriṯitja Kuwarri Tjungu | Past & Present Together: Fifty Years of Papunya Tula Artists that was on view at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia from 2021-23 and the Embassy of Australia in Washington, DC in 2024. It was made possible by our creative partnership with Papunya Tula Artists and the generous support of UVA Arts Council. Site design by Urban Fugitive for V21 Artspace.
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Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri


The designs in this painting relate to a place called Maruwa, where there is a swamp, a soakage and a rockhole. In the Dreaming, a large group of ancestral men known as the Tingarri ancestors traveled to Maruwa from the west, and after arriving there, they entered beneath the earth’s surface and continued their travels underground. Maruwa is also significant because a large ancestral snake sleeps in the swamp.

Few painters can match the optical intensity found in the paintings of Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri. Shimmering like a mirage, they pulse and swirl, hovering between the canvas and the eye like an electromagnetic field. Warlimpirrnga’s principle influences were the artists George Tjungurayi and Tjampu Tjapaltjarri, from whom he learned the stark, linear style synonymous with Pintupi painting at Kiwirrkurra. But Warlimpirrnga took this style to dazzling new levels of opticality. Swirling lines of dots shimmer across the canvas like a mirage, evoking the shifting movement of desert sands. The pulse and gleam of these works is a powerful visual metaphor for Tjukurrpa (Dreaming)—the ancestral power that runs through all things. This explains the clear conviction in these paintings, whose confidence is directly related to Warlimpirrnga’s faith in his own authority and the self-evident power of Tjukurrpa. As they burn themselves onto your retina, the paintings of Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri are designed to occupy your consciousness, to transport you to the sweeping plains of Wilkinkarra, and to make you see the world anew.


Language Group: Pintupi
Date: Born 1959

Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri is one of the most internationally lauded contemporary artists from Papunya Tula. One of the nine who made national headlines in 1984 for being one of the last indigenous groups to make "first contact" with Europeans upon his group’s arrival in Kiwirrkurra, Warlimpirrnga grew up in the desert, sheltered by his father from white Australian society. Having been born at Tjuurlnga east of Kiwirrkurra, Warlimpirrnga was the son of Papalya Nangala and Waku Tjungurrayi, and spent his childhood following the traditional lifestyle of the Western Desert peoples. The group’s isolation was enforced until both Warlimpirrnga’s father and Lanti Tkapanangka, the succeeding senior male of the group, passed, triggering the group to search for long-lost relatives in the established Pintupi homelands community of Kiwirrkurra. Three years into living at the settlement, he approached Papunya Tula Artists with an interest in painting and completed his first painting for the company in April 1987. Warlimpirrnga is married to Yalti Napangati, and together they have four children. His son Angus Tjungurrayi has recently begun painting for Papunya Tula Artists.

In 2000, Warlimpirrnga traveled to Sydney for the opening of the exhibition Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius, where he collaborated in producing a sand painting. In 2012, Warlimpirrnga's work was featured in dOCUMENTA 13 in Kassel, Germany, and he has been included in numerous group exhibitions at prominent institutions, including Mapa Wiya (Your Map’s Not Needed): Australian Aboriginal Art from the Fondation Opale at the Menil Collection, Houston (TX) in 2019; and No Boundaries: Aboriginal Australian Contemporary Abstract Painting at the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno. In 2015, his solo exhibition Maparntjarra at Salon 94 in New York City was a critical and commercial success with glowing reviews in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New Yorker.

Are you related to this artist? Are you a scholar of artwork from the Papunya Tula movement? Please contact us at kluge-ruhe@virginia.edu if you would like to add something to this page or see something that is missing or incorrect.