National Gallery of Australia unveils major painting
by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri - Warlugulong 1977

11 September 2007

Clifford Possum
Tjapaltjarri 'Warlugulong' 1977
synthetic polymer paint on canvas Collection of the National Gallery of Australia Purchased with the generous assistance of Roslynne Bracher and the Paspaley Family, David Coe and Michelle Coe, Charles Curran and Eva Curran © the estate of the artist licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency 2007 click here to zoom

The National Gallery of Australia is delighted to unveil the recently acquired Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri painting Warlugulong 1977. This highly significant work of art was acquired for $2.4 million as part of the 25th Anniversary Gifts Program and is one of several major acquisitions celebrating the National Gallery of Australia’s 25th Anniversary.

The purchase of Warlugulong 1977 has been made possible by the generous assistance of Roslynne Bracher and the Paspaley Family, David Coe and Michelle Coe, and Charles Curran and Eva Curran. The National Gallery of Australia is greatly appreciative of the benefactors support for the painting and the 25th Anniversary Gifts Program.

The work of art by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, a founding member of the Papunya Tula art movement is an important addition to the National Gallery’s collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, the largest collection in Australia. Warlugulong 1977, one of his seminal works, is regarded as one of the key Australian paintings of the 20th century and certainly one of the greatest Western Desert paintings. It will be a core work for the main Central Australian Room in the Gallery’s new wing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, which will commence construction next month.

From 1976 to 1979 Tjapaltjarri produced a series of five large innovative canvases that mapped out his ancestral lands and their Dreaming stories in such a way as to integrate the sacred diagrams of ceremonial ground paintings and the topographical conventions of European maps. No Western Desert painter had attempted this approach before and these are amongst the first large canvases ever produced from this ground breaking movement.

The painting Warlugulong 1977 reveals five Dreaming stories. The main story Warlugulong (Bushfire Dreaming) relates to a father (Lungkata, the Blue-Tongue Lizard Man) who discovers his two sons had killed, cooked and eaten a kangaroo without sharing it (as is customary). In anger and wanting to teach them a lesson, he blew on his fire stick until it glowed. He held it to a bush which exploded into flames. A raging fire roared towards the sons who tried in vain to fight it but they soon perished (their skeletons can be seen to the right).

Other stories include a large group of emus returning to Napperby; joyously dancing women; Mala (Rock Wallaby) men traveling north from Port Augusta in South Australia; the Chase of the Goanna Men; the tracks of Tjangala and Nungurrayi Dingoes traveling to Warrabri; the footprints left by the Tjungurrayi Man who tried to steal secret/sacred cultural objects; a family traveling to a site known as Ngama; the tracks of Upambura, the Possum Man – the artist’s totem – all traversing the canvas in a multitude of directions.

Warlugulong 1977 is now on permanent display at National Gallery of Australia.




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Todd Hayward
+61 2 6240 6700


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