Good Weekend Art Column

Ronnie Tjampitjinpa – Utopia Art, Sydney

Published April 27, 2019
Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, 'Untitled' (2003)

Artist: Ronnie Tjampitjinpa

Lives: Alice Springs

Age:around 76

Represented by:Utopia Art Sydney (no Melbourne representation)

Her thing.Classic western desert paintings by an old master of the Papunya Tula movement

Our take.Ronnie Tjampitjinpa was one of the original group of men who began painting with acrylic on boards at the Western Desert settlement of Papunya Tula in the early 1970s. He would go on to become a leader of the ‘back to country’ movement, which saw him relocate to his Pintupi homeland of Kintore, a remote outstation close to the Western Australian border, in 1983.

Today Tjampitjinpa lives in aged care in Alice Springs and has officially retired from painting, but he remains one of the most respected of the groundbreaking Papunya artists. In a show subtitled Tribute to a Master, Utopia Art Sydney has brought together a selection of works from 2003 to 2018 that reveal several phases of Tjampitjinpa’s work, all of it characterised by by a tremendous sense of confidence and purpose.

Tjampitjinpa’s painting took a leap forward when he returned to the traditional lands where he had spent his childhood, testifying to the crucial connections that exist between a great indigenous artist and a country that provides both subject matter and spiritual sustenance.

Can I afford it?

At 183cm by 244cm the largest and most expensive items in this show of 14 Untitled paintings, are nos. 10 and 11 in the catalogue. One is a pale mass of curving, interlocking patterns, the other an orderly collection of squares, filled in with concentric rings of red and orange. Both are dazzling examples of Tjampitjinpa’s boldness with colour and form. Both are selling for $150,000, which is equal to the artist’s record price – although this a record that should soon be broken.

The least expensive pieces are four small paintings: no. 2 (46cm by 38cm), and nos. 3,4 and 5 (61cm by 31cm), at only $1,100. This may sound like a bargain in comparison to the major works but these pictures are mere fragments of their larger cousins. You get one patterned square rather than 40, but it’s unmistakeably a Tjampitjinpa signature work.

Where can I have a squiz?

Utopia Art Sydney, 72 Henderson Road, Alexandria, 30 March – 27 April, 2019.


Published in The Good Weekend, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 April, 2019