Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula rapidly distinguished himself as one of the most respected and influential artists of the Papunya Tula movement. Born in the Western Desert at Minjilpirri, a station northwest of Illipili and south of Lake Mackay, Tjupurrula relocated with his family to Haaasts Bluff early in his life in response to the devastating droughts. He eventually settled permanently in Papunya Tula, a newly established government settlement 200km east of Haasts Bluff.
In 1994, Tjupurrula commenced a series of paintings depicting ancestral stories connected to the sites of Kalipinypa and Tjikari, both of which are positioned northeast of Sandy Blight junction and some 400km west of Alice Springs. The narrative that forms the basis of this piece and many other works from his career, concerns Winpa, the Lightning Boss, who sang up a huge storm from Kalipinya. Dark clouds formed, thunder cracked, hail pelted down and torrential rain scoured the earth. Winpa sang and stamped out the verses that Tjupurrula learned as a young man. Winpa propelled the storm eastward, creating a series of water holes, which now marks the path of his song line. Observed from the centre outwards, the eye of the storm stands prominent in this piece, paying homage to the iconography from the story of Winpa and other ancestral elements from Tjupurrula’s country.
This work depicting the sites of Kalipinypa and Tjikari are characterised by twenty-one small canvases, all individually completed creating an atmospheric effect of a storm unfolding, alluding to the landscape where his ancestral story of Winpa occurs. Tjupurrula uses rich washes of paint applied directly onto the wet canvas, enabling the pigments to appear as though they have engrained themselves into the surface. Upon this earthy texture, dark winding lines, strokes and circles create movement and a energy behind each veil off dotted clusters or ‘tremulous illusions’ as referred to by Geoffrey Bardon. In works such as this and many from his career as an artist, Tjupurrula creates an intense pictorial surface evoking a sense of mystery, consistent with use of dotting across most early Papunya Tula works.
Lucy Foster / Senior Art Specialist
 Kean, John. Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula: Painting in a changing landscape NGV, ngv.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 12 July 2022
Banner Image (detail): JOHNNY WARANGKULA TJUPURRULA (c.1920-2001) (Pintupi Language Group) A Suite of Paintings Depicting the Sites of Kalipinypa and Tjikari 1994-95 | $30,000-40,000