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 George Ward Tjapaltjarri  (1940s - 2006)

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Lived/Active: Australia      Known for: Aboriginal painting

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Rêve des rochers / Rocks Dreaming
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Dr George Ward Tjapaltjarri was a well respected artist and traditional Aboriginal elder.  He was born in the 1940’s at Walungurru, or more commonly known as Kintore Community in Western Australia.  During his formative years he had a traditional Aboriginal bush childhood and it wasn’t until 1964 when he met renowned Aboriginal tracker, Nosepeg Tjunkata Tjupurrula, that he had first contact with Europeans.

Dr George Tjapaltjarri took up modern art creation in the mid to late 1970’s where he began painting for Papunya Tula Artists.  He then moved away from painting to pursue further traditional teachings and medicine.  In the late 1970’s to the early 1980’s he worked as a traditional healer with the Kintore and Tjukurla Medical clinics, this is where he gained the nickname “Doctor”.  The title refers to his position as a traditional medicine man of his people which covers his Karrinwara and Kilingya country.

As well as a medicine man, Doctor George was an important Pintupi elder responsible for the initiation of young men into the cultic life.  This responsibility entails revealing to them the esoteric knowledge connected with the ‘Tingari Cycle’.  He depicts this cultural knowledge in his artworks which display a bold series of horizontal and vertical lines representing ceremonial body paint designs worn by young men during Malliera initiation ceremonies. Within his artworks he depicts the ceremonial sites associated with these designs from his Pulpulna country in the Gibson Desert of Western Australia.

The body paint designs appear to imply a strong association with the desert landscape, its soak-ages, sandhills and creek beds.  The raw body paint markings emulate the tradition and power of the sacred story they are connected to.

Doctor George is most renowned for his Tingari paintings.  Dreaming's associated with the Tingari are of a secret and sacred nature as it is important men’s business, which forms the foundation of much of their law.  Colors in relation to painting hold great significance in the Western Desert.  Dr George utilizes the traditional colors present in raw pigment, clay and charcoal, which are: red, yellow, white and black.  The concentric design is typical of ‘’Tingari Dreaming’’ and in part relates to the great expanses covered by the Tingari in the mythological Creation Period.  The Tingari beings traveled to particular desert regions in order to create landforms and teach law.  The color white is significant, usually depicting the presence of much needed water.

Dr George Ward Tjapaltjarri has held exhibitions around Australia and overseas.  His artworks can be found in collections around Australia. 
Birnberg, M. & Kreczmanski, J.B. (2004) Aboriginal Artist Dictionary of Biographies Australian Western, Central Desert and Kimberley Region. J.B.
Publishing Australia, Marleston, South Australia.

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