c. 1938 - 2001
Born: Haasts Bluff, NT
COMMUNITY: Kintore, NT
Born around 1938 at Haasts Bluff, Turkey and his family lived a blend of traditional life and white settlement life. His family drifted around traditional country near Kintore and the Hermannsburg Mission. Shortly after Turkey was born his family stayed in the area of Haasts Bluff.
When the Papunya settlement was established and began to grow, Turkey and his family came from the bush and settled there. This was in 1959 shortly after Turkey's initiation into manhood. Turkey then worked as a laborer on the new constructions and moved to an outstation near Papunya. After his first wife died, he moved back to Papunya and joined the local and growing artist group. This was in 1971, the beginning of the Aboriginal Art Movement. Being one of the youngest artists involved with the beginning of the Papunya Tula Art movement in 1971, he was influenced by many of the older artists. He then took this knowledge and developed his own unique style with his interpretation of the Dreamings; emerging as one of the stars of the Papunya Tula Art Movement.
Though firmly based in traditional culture, Turkey Tolson was one of the first non-urban artists to use western mediums and techniques to create landscapes in the European Manner. By working outside of the traditional Aboriginal framework, Turkey was able to develop both methods of expression.
Returning to his traditional form, Turkey created austere compositions which speak beyond the intellect and directly to the spirit. Using lines, arcs, hatch motifs and occasionally dots, he camouflages his ancestral designs and marks from the uninitiated. Each painting has individual significance and importance. This style is the classical severely traditional Pintupi style of circles and connecting lines. Turkey is one of the few who paints using the best of all worlds.
I think about my work and my painting. I think about my father's place and I put it in my memory. I think about how I'm going to paint. I started painting a long time ago. Different styles, each time a different style. I change my style from painting to painting."
Turkey paints the Bush Fire, Emu, Snake, Woman and Mitukutajarrayi Dreamings, which are from his traditional country South of Kintore around Yuwalki, Mitukutajarrayi and Putjya Rock Hole. Within Turkey's paintings there is the idea that the whole cluster involved, the songs, the ceremonies, the body painting, the ground painting, the place itself, plus the whole human heritage that it represents (Turkey's and his father's lives) can be absorbed by the experience of viewing the work. Turkey's work is important to the spirituality of this land and bridging the gap between western and traditional art.
Turkey Tolson passed away in 2001 and will be remembered for the enormous contribution he made to Aboriginal art in Australia as one of the founding desert masters.