Harry Tjutjuna

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Harry Tjutjuna
Bornc. 1930
Years active2005 – present
OrganizationNinuku Arts
StyleWestern Desert art
Spouse(s)2 wives (both have died) [1]

Harry Tjutjuna is an Aboriginal artist from central Australia. He belongs to the Pitjantjatjara people. Tjutjuna began painting in 2005. He held his first solo exhibition in 2007, in Darwin. His work is now held in several major public galleries in Australia,[2] including the Art Gallery of New South Wales,[3] the National Gallery of Victoria,[4] and the National Gallery of Australia.[5] His painting Ninuku Tjukurpa (Bilby Dreaming Story) was a finalist for the Togard Contemporary Art Award in 2009.[6] In 2010 and 2011, another of Tjutjuna's paintings, Wati Nyiru munu Wati Wanka, was chosen as a finalist in both the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards,[7] and the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award (NATSIAA).[8]

Life[change | change source]

Tjutjuna was born around 1930.[10] He was born in the bushland close to what is now the community of Pipalyatjara in the north-west corner of South Australia. Sources disagree on where exactly he was born.[1] Some say he was born at Walytjatjara, a place to the north-east of Pipalyatjara, just over the border in the Northern Territory.[4][6] Others say that he was born at Mount Davies, a hill that overlooks Pipalyatjara.[2][9][11]

When Tjutjuna was still young, his family settled at Ernabella. He went to school on the mission there and later worked as a labourer for the community.[2][12] He later moved back west to live in the communities of Irrunytju and Pipalyatjara after they were established. He moved there with his wives and children to be closer to his homeland. In his later life, Tjutjuna became known as an important traditional healer (ngangkaṟi) and law man (wati puḻka) for the Pitjantjatjara.[12]

Tjutjuna began painting in late 2005, when he was aged in his mid-seventies.[9] He was living again at Ernabella, and began to paint for the community's art company Ernabella Arts.[12] His work at Ernabella depicted Tjukurpa (traditional law or stories from the Dreamtime). It supported a shift in subject matter for the centre's artists, from quite secular to more spiritual subjects.[2] In 2008, Tjutjuna moved back to Pipalyatjara and began work for Ninuku Arts.[6]

Artwork[change | change source]

Tjutjuna paints concepts and stories from his Dreaming (spirituality). His main personal totem is a spider (waṉka), and his Dreaming revolves around the Wati Waṉka Tjukurpa (Spider Man Dreaming).[9] According to his Dreaming, which was passed on to him from previous generations, Tjutjuna's ancestor is a powerful being known as the Spider Man. This creature is said to have created Tjutjuna's country in the Dreamtime, and so Tjutjuna associates his country, his heritage and himself with this set of beliefs. In this way, the paintings are autobiographical in addition to depicting traditional stories.[2][13] Tjutjuna identifies himself as the Spider Man,[2] and his paintings are often seen to symbolise his work as a ngangkaṟi (healer).[13] Because his totem is a spider, he uses spider webs to treat wounds on people's skin.[9]

Tjutjuna also paints figures from several other Dreaming stories associated with his country, such as the Wati Maḻu (Red Kangaroo Man) and the Kungka Mingkiri (Mice Women).[1][2] Many of the paintings have sexual themes.[11] One of Tjutjuna's most famous paintings, Wati Nyiru munu Wati Wanka, is a composition of two Dreaming stories. It depicts the story of the Kungkarungkara (Seven Sisters), which is about the constellations of Pleiades (the sisters) and Orion. Tjutjuna painted it from the male's perspective.[8][11] Wati Nyiṟu, a shape-shifting man, chases the seven sisters and catches the youngest, raping her.[1][2] The other story depicted is from the Spider Man Dreaming. The painting was chosen as a finalist for the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards in 2010,[7] and the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award in 2011.[8]

Tjutjuna paints in the typical style of the Western Desert, which can be seen as very abstract. The figures in his paintings, ancestral beings, are obscured and encoded for cultural reasons. He uses fields of dots to represent their interactions, and lines to represent their journeys across the landscape. The landscape is depicted with the earthly colours of the desert (reds, oranges, ochres and white).[2] In his works depicting Wati Waṉka, he often paints circular patterns across the background. This motif is used to represent both a spider's web and the spider man's many women.[13] Tjutjuna is also known for drip paintings.[14]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Details of Harry Tjutjuna". Short Street Gallery. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Angel, Anita (30 June 2011). "Harry Tjutjuna". Looking at Art. Charles Darwin University Art Collection and Art Gallery. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  3. "Works by Harry Tjutjuna". Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Harry Tjutjuna". Collection Online. National Gallery of Victoria. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  5. "Tjutjuna, Harry". Collection Online. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Green, Felicity, ed. (2009). "2009 Catalogue" (PDF). Togart Contemporary Art Award. The Toga Group. p. 48. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 John Day, Minister for Planning, Culture and the Arts, Science and Innovation; Government of Western Australia (23 April 2010). "2010 Western Australian indigenous art awards artists announced". Press release. http://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/WACabinetMinistersSearch.aspx?ItemId=133381&minister=Day&admin=Barnett. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Wati Nyiru munu Wati Wanka". 28th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Woods, Chantelle. "Harry Tjutjuna: Wangka Tjukurpa (Spiderman)". Artonreview. National Gallery of Australia. 57 (Autumn 2009): 38. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  10. The exact year of Harry Tjutjuna's birth is not known. Most sources say he was born around 1930. The National Gallery of Australia estimates that it was between 1928 and 1932.[9]
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 "Harry Tjutjuna". Marshall Arts. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Ananguku Arts (ed.). Tjukurpa Pulkatjara: The Power of the Law. Wakefield Press. p. 16. ISBN 9781862548909.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Cumpston, Nici (ed.). "Education Resource" (PDF). Desert Country. Art Gallery of South Australia. Retrieved 16 November 2012.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  14. "Ninuku Arts". Australian Art Collector. Retrieved 16 November 2012.

Other websites[change | change source]