Willy Tjungurrayi

Willy Tjungurrayi

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DOB: c. 1932 - 2018
Born: Patjantja, NT

One of the most sought after painters of the Western Desert, Willy Tjungurrayi was a senior Pintupi man, entitled by his ancestry and communal position to paint the sacred and secret Tingari cycle. He has been acknowledged as one of the great colourists of contemporary Aboriginal painting.

Willy was in the middle one of three brothers; Yala Yala Gibbs (founding member of the Papunya art movement and senior custodian of secret/sacred men business) was the eldest and George Ward Tjungurrayi the youngest. They were all sons of Pulpalpulpalnga Tjapaltjarri but had different mothers.

Willy Tjungurrayi was born around 1932 at Patjantja, southwest of Lake Mackay in the Northern Territory. He came into Haast's Bluff in 1956 with other Pintupi people, and in 1959 Willy was trucked across to Papunya with most of the other Aboriginal residents due to problems with Haasts Bluff's water supply. Willy began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in 1976. By the 1980s Willy was recognized as a senior Pintupi painter, and he joined the movement of return to the Pintupi homelands. He lived in Walungurru (Kintore) until 2003 and split his time between Alice Springs and Walungurru.

Stories from the Tingari Dreaming song cycle, and the land around Haast's Bluff, Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay) and Kaakuratintja (Lake MacDonald), were Willy Tjungarrayi's two great linked themes. For some subjects Willy painted dozens of dotted Roundels (concentric circles), linked by parallel lines, the spaces between them filled with bright, flat primary and mixed colours, a depiction of the travels and stopping places of the Tingari Men, an image of the rhythmic repetition of the songs associated with the Tjukurpa (Creation era or Dreaming).

More recently, Tjungarrayi's paintings featured hundreds of endless wavy lines in an ochre monochrome shimmer across the canvas on a pale background. These paintings illustrate (or witness, might be more correct) the sand hills and the fierce hailstorm that killed the ancestral Tingari Men in the Dreamtime. Willy Tjungarrayi's work is highly sought after, and has been acquired for many major private and public collections.


  • Aboriginal Art Museum, The Netherlands
  • Artbank
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
  • Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
  • National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
  • Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra
  • The Holmes a Court Collection, Perth
  • The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica
  • Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne
  • The Luczo Family Collection, USA
  • Pat Corrigan Collection, Sydney
  • Luciano Benetton Collection, Venice
  • Shepparton Art Museum, Shepparton VIC


Selected Group Exhibitions:

2021 Private Collection | Private View: One Collector's Passion & Soul, Cooee Art, Redfern
2021 Papunya Tula: 50 years 1971-2021, S.H. Erwin Gallery, Sydney
2020 Pointillism Perfection, Art Mob, Hobart
2020 Papunya, D'Lan Contemporary, Melbourne
2019 Desert Painters of Australia, Larry Gagosian Gallery, New York, USA - from the Steve Martin & Anne Springfield Collections and Kluge-Ruhe Collection of the University of Virginia, USA
2019 Defining Tradition: the first wave & its disciples, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2017 Constellation, Paul Johnstone Gallery, Darwin
2010 Lost Tribe, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2004 Papunya Tula Artists, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
2004 Australian Aboriginal Art Collector's Exhibition, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2003 Kintore Kiwirrkura, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
1994 Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs
1994 Yiribana, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
1991 The Painted Dream: Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings from the Tim and Vivien Johnson Collection, Auckland City Art Gallery and Te Whare Taonga o Aoteroa National Art Gallery, New Zealand.
1989 Aboriginal Art: The Continuing Tradition, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
1988 Australian Aboriginal Graphics from the Collection of the Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
1987 Art and Aboriginality, Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth, UK
1985 Dot and Circle, a retrospective survey of the Aboriginal acrylic paintings of Central Australia, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne.
1983 Papunya: paintings from the Central Australian Desert, touring exhibition, America and Europe.
1982 Georges Gallery, Melbourne; Brisbane Festival; Mori Gallery, Sydney.