c.1943- June 2023
Born: Tjiturrunya, Kintore, NT
LANGUAGE GROUP: Pintupi
COMMUNITY: Kintore, NT
Ronnie Tjampitjinpa was born around 1943 at Tjiturrunya, about 100km west of the Kintore ranges in Western Australia. Following an extended drought in the 1950s, Ronnie's family moved to Haasts Bluff and then on to Papunya where he grew up.
Papunya was a government experiment under the policy of assimilation where mixtures of tribes were thrown together into one community. It was hardly an ideal way to grow up and gave rise to the desire of Ronnie and many other Pintupi artists and residents to move back to their home lands. Whilst in Papunya, Ronnie started painting in the early 1970s. He was among the first of the Pintupi men to embrace art as a means of recording culture and thus took part at the genesis of the western desert art movement. He appeared in his first exhibition in 1974 and had his first solo show in 1989. He moved to Kintore in the 1980s, shortly after its establishment, fulfilling his dream of returning to his homelands.
Ronnie's style tends towards simple, geometric shapes and bold lines. He explores the themes of water dreaming, bushfire dreaming and the Tingari cycle. Tingari are the legendary beings of the Pintupi people that travelled the desert performing rituals, teaching law, creating landforms and shaping what would become ceremonial sites. As far as we can know, the meanings behind Tingari paintings are multi-layered, however, those meaning are not available to the uninitiated.
Ronnie Tjampitjinpa was the winner of the 1988 Alice Springs Art Prize and has been a finalist in numerous prestigous art prizes in the intervening 30 or so years. He is regarded as one of Aboriginal art's most collectable artists, appearing in over 30 major collections worldwide, including the National Gallery of Australia, the Musee du quai Branly, Paris, and the Seattle Art Museum.
In 2015 the Art Gallery of New South Wales held a survey exhibition celebrating Ronnie Tjampitjinpa's 40-year career. It showcased how he presented innovation within the traditions of Pintupi visual language throughout his career.
Ronnie was married to Mary Brown Napangardi and continued to reside in the small Pintupi community of Kintore, deep into a remote desert area, about 500km west of Alice Springs. He passed away in June 2023. He was a legend in the Aboriginal art world, and at home he was referred to as the 'King of Kintore'.