Ronnie Tjampitjinpa was born some time around 1943 in the region
near Muyinnga, about 100 km west of the Kintore Ranges in Western
Australia (and approximately 500 km west of Alice Springs).
His family traveled extensively across Pintupi territory, moving
through this region and also around Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay)
which straddles the Western Australia - Northern Territory border.
He was initiated into Aboriginal Law at Yumari, near his birthplace.
Ronnie originally came in from the bush at Yuendumu and
later joined relatives living in Papunya, where he worked
as a labourer, helping with the fencing of the airfield.
He started painting around 1971 at the time that the
desert art movement began in Papunya and over several
years he moved between Papunya, Yuendumu and Mt Doreen
Station. Ronnie's work follows the Pintupi style of strong
circles joined together by connecting lines relating to
the people, country and the Dreamtime.
The primary images in Ronnie's work are based on the Tingari
Cycle which is a secret song cycle sacred to initiated men.
The Tingari are Dreamtime Beings who travelled across the landscape
performing ceremonies to create and shape the country associated
with Dreaming sites. The Tingari ancestors gathered at these
sites for Maliera (initiation) ceremonies. The sites take the
form of, and are located at, significant rockholes, sand hills,
sacred mountains and water soakages in the western desert.
Tingari may be poetically interpreted as song-line paintings
relating to the songs (of the people) and creation stories (of
places) in Pintupi mythology. Ronnie can be considered amongst
the first wave of artists effectively linking such ancient stories
with modern mediums.
During his time at Papunya Ronnie talked of returning to his
traditional country. This became possible when Kintore was established
in 1981 and Ronnie moved there with his family shortly afterwards.
He has been a committed artist since his earliest involvement with
the central desert art movement and has since emerged as one
of the region's major painters. Today, Ronnie remains an important
influence on a new generation of painters.
Ronnie's works first appeared in Papunya Tula exhibitions during
the 1970s, then in commercial art galleries in Sydney and Melbourne
throughout the 1980s, including successive exhibitions at Gallery
Gabrielle Pizzi from 1987 to 1990. In 1988, he won the Alice
Springs Art Prize and he had his first solo exhibition in Melbourne
The artist was later selected for inclusion in major representative
Aboriginal survey shows including: Flash Pictures at the Australian
National Gallery; Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami; and
other noteworthy exhibitions in Paris, Moscow, St Petersburg,
Düsseldorf and Munich.
His work is held in many public galleries and private collections,
including the National Gallery of Australia and all the state
(Source: Aboriginal Artists of the Western Desert: a biographical
dictionary by Vivien Johnson 1994).
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