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Painting at Papunya

Installation view

Installation view

Currently on display | Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Galleries | Queensland Art Gallery (QAG)

Papunya is a remote community located around 250 kilometres west of Alice Springs, just north of the MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory; its name is derived from the smaller of two hills in the area. The settlement at Papunya was established in 1959, the last to be formed in the Northern Territory under the federal government policies of centralisation and assimilation. As the site for the resettlement of many language groups from the desert region, Papunya coincidently, but aptly, translates as a ‘meeting place for all brothers and cousins’.

In February 1971, school teacher Geoffrey Bardon arrived at Papunya to teach social studies, but he soon offered art and craft lessons for his students. Community elders took an interest in the painting projects he initiated with the children and, with Bardon’s support, a team of seven senior men painted a large wall mural at the Papunya Special School. The mural represented the celebrated local story of the Honey Ant Dreaming, where ancestors emerged from the ground and moved across landforms, marking their passage before returning underground. Two of the men involved in the project were Shorty Lungkata Tjungarrayi and Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri – paintings by both these artists are displayed in this gallery.

By 1972, the Papunya painters had attracted the attention of both Australian and international audiences. They launched their first commercial exhibition in Sydney that year, and the artist‑run company Papunya Tula was also established. Later in 1972, the Papunya Tula artists were introduced to painting on canvas as an alternative to painting on wooden boards. Since that time, they have become some of the most celebrated artists in Australia.

Of Interest 

The Queensland Art Gallery houses a significant collection of Australian paintings, sculptures, decorative art objects, and works on paper. Find more information on these selected Collection highlights | Indigenous Australian Art | Queensland Heritage | Australian Art to 1975 | Contemporary Australian Art 

Search the Queensland Art Gallery's Collection online for works by Toby Tjampitjinpa Brown, Tulo Gordon, Anatjari Tjakamarra, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarra, Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, Kaapa Mbitjana Tjampitjina, Shorty Lungkarda Tjungarrayi, Yumpululu Tjungarrayi and Johnny Warrangkula Tjupurrula | Collection Search