WARNING: This exhibition includes names and images of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal people. In many Aboriginal communities, the use of a deceased person's name or image is prohibited during the mourning period. It is an Australian custom to warn Aboriginal people that images and names of deceased relatives and friends may be displayed.
Papunya Painting: Out of the Australian Desert was on show at the National Art Museum of China, Beijing
from 10 June until 26 August 2010.
During the 1970s and early 1980s Aboriginal artists from Australia's Central and Western Desert regions created artworks that transformed understandings of Aboriginal art. On canvases, boards and whatever materials they could find, these artists boldly experimented with colour and style in the telling of their sacred Dreaming stories. This exhibition highlighted the National Museum of Australia's extraordinary collection of these paintings.
On this page
Possum Men of Yirtjurunya 1974
Man Dreaming shield 1972
Tingarri Men and Initiates at Marabindinya 1981
Wooden spear 1976
Billy Nolan Tjapangarti
Dreaming at Ilingaringa 1976
Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri
Budgerigars in the Sandhills 1975
Tingarri Dreaming 1981
Charlie Tjaruru Tjungurrayi
Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri
Dreaming Story at Warlugulong 1976
Carved snake 1973
Daisy Leura Nakamarra
Women Collecting Bush Tucker container 1980
David Corby Tjapaltjarri
Dreaming of Matjadji 1975
Dinny Nolan Tjampitjinpa
Lyurulyuru Dreaming shield 1972
Freddy West Tjakamarra
Tingarri Men at Ngalkalarra 1975
Tingarri Dreaming at Nariboruka 1977
The Dancing Women at Nyuminga 1976
Tingarri Men at Kiritjinya 1975
Johnny Scobie Tjapanangka
Tjunyinkya 1977 (with Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula)
Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula
Mala and the Bad Uncles at Tjikarri (I and II) 1974
Storm Camps on the Rain Dreaming Trail 1978
Goanna about 1972
Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra
Wilkinkarra Men's Camp 1975
Making Spears 1975
Mick Namararri Tjapaltjarri
Flying Dingoes 1974
Mick Wallankarri Tjakamarra
Water Dreaming boomerang 1975
Old Man's Dreaming boomerang 1975
Painted shields collected by Olive Pink in 1936
Chisel 1972, Paddy Tjangala
Willy Wagtail and Hailstone Dreamings 1981
Ray Inkamala Tjampitjinpa
Lizard Dreaming Site at Linga-Goora 1976
Shorty Lungkarta Tjungurrayi
The Two Women Dreaming 1975
Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri
Honey Ant Hunt 1975
Trial by Fire 1975
Tim Payungka Tjapangarti
Tingarri Story 1975
Timmy Jugadai Tjungurrayi
Travels of the Mala 1976
Toby Brown Tjampitjinpa
Carpet Snake Dreaming 1976
Tommy Lowry Tjapaltjarri
Snake Dreaming at Tjuntina container about 1978
Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula
Dreaming at Kamparrarrpa 1976, Kampurrarrpa 1976
Tjunyinkya 1977 (with Johnny Scobie Tjapanangka)
Two Women Mythology at Putja Rockhole 1977
Uta Uta Tjangala
Yumari 1981 and Yumari 1976, Medicine Story 1971
Ngurrapalangu 1974, Red paint tin 1981, Old Man Dreaming shield 1972, Wooden club 1977
Snake Dreaming at Naruingya 1976
The Dreaming: The sacred stories of sacred ancestors
Many of the paintings in this exhibition tell stories of the activities of sacred ancestral beings. Aboriginal people refer to these collectively as 'the Dreaming'.
In the Dreaming the great ancestral beings created the world through their actions. In creating the world they left their spiritual presence in the features of the land — a presence that is still there today. So, for Aboriginal people, the Dreaming exists in both the past and the present.
The ancestral beings of the Dreaming had many forms. They could be human, animals or plants. They could be giant or small. Their actions made all the hills, plains and rivers. Where they built shelters could become mountains, where they dragged their digging sticks could become river channels. Their footsteps could become lakes.
Their actions and relationships, both good and bad, also provide moral stories, guiding Aboriginal people in correct behaviour.
When Aboriginal people travel their country today they see the hills, trees, animals and plants — everything — as the living embodiment of the sacred ancestral beings of the Dreaming.
Many of the works in this exhibition were collected by the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council during the 1970s. The Aboriginal Arts Board was created in 1973, with members who were all Indigenous Australians. It fostered Aboriginal arts, literature, theatre, dance, music, painting and craft, and also provided grants for Aboriginal communities to employ managers and to help preserve and sustain Aboriginal culture, arts and crafts.
Some of the Papunya paintings bought by the Aboriginal Arts Board were lent or given to Australian embassies around the world. Others were donated to public museums and galleries in Australia and overseas. These gifts helped to raise the profile of Aboriginal art in the commercial art market.
The Aboriginal Arts Board also purchased paintings for display in travelling exhibitions, which toured Africa, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States between 1973 and 1981. In the 1980s the Board wound up its exhibition program and, in 1990, the historic collection of Papunya paintings was transferred to the National Museum of Australia.
Papunya lies close to the Tropic of Capricorn, in the far southwest corner of Australia's Northern Territory. The settlement is 240 kilometres northwest of Alice Springs. This map shows sites of significance in the area.
This exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with Vivien Johnson. The National Museum of Australia gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Philip Batty, Bob Edwards, John Kean, Vincent Megaw, Fred Myers, Tim Johnson, Film Australia and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd.
A travelling exhibition developed and presented by the National Museum of Australia.