Ronnie Tjampitjinpa

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BORN    circa 1942

REGION    Kintore

LANGUAGE    Pintupi


Ronnie was born around 1943 near Muyinnga, about 100 kilometres west of the Kintore ranges in Western Australia. His family moved extensively across the Pintupi territory up through the Northern Territory, living the traditional ways, which his people have lived for over 40,000 years.

Ronnie and his younger brother, Smithy Zimarron, originally came in from the bush at Yuendumu.He was initiated into Aboriginal Law (manhood) in the early 1950’s at Yumari near his birthplace. Shortly afterwards, due to drought conditions in the 1950’s, Ronnie and his family moved towards Haasts Bluff and then later joined relatives at the newly settled Papunya community. He found work as a fencer making the yards for cattle in the surrounding area. He spent most of his early life in a nomadic existencein the remote  Gibson Desert, on the W.A / N.T  border. For many years he moved between Papunya, Yuendumu and Mt Doreen Station. Later becoming a stockman in the late 1950’s.

It was during this time that he started to take an interest in the art movement happening at this time. Shortly after he started painting, he discussed with many people about moving back into the traditional lands, which is the basis of their lives. His goal was made possible by the establishment of the Kintore settlement in 1981.

By being more in touch with his traditional lands and the Dreaming, Ronnie soon emerged as one of Papunya Tula’s major artists. His work reflects his directs ties with his culture, retaining a purity that many other aboriginal artists have not achieved. Ronnie’s work follows the strict Pintupi style of strong  circles joined together by connecting lines relating to the people  and the land and the Dreamtime.

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.

His work has a simplicity that makes it appealing, yet mysterious as the uninitiated try to understand what he is
painting. By painting the Dreamtime he is helping to resurrect the Aboriginal culture as a whole and allow outsiders to learn about one of the oldest cultures in the world. This work is important to the spirituality of this land, bridging the gap between European life and Traditional Aboriginal Life, which is important in exposing and healing this gap.

Being one of the major Aboriginal Artists his work has featured in numerous exhibitions and collections around Australia. He has had solo exhibitions at the Utopia Gallery and the Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi. Several of his group exhibitions include the Dreamtime Gallery, The Australian National Gallery and the Art Gallery of South Australia. He is also in permanent collections at the National Gallery and the Art Gallery of Victoria and the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.

Ronnie Tjampitjinpa was the winner of the 1988 Alice Springs Art Prize and is shown in numerous major public and private galleries worldwide. He is married to Mary Brown Napangardi and currently spends his time between Alice Springs and his home in Kintore.


2011    Tjukurrtjanu- Origins of Western Desert Art, National Gallery of Victoria
2009    The Dreamers, Art Gallery of NSW
2008    From the air, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane, QLD
2004    DREAMTIME: The Dark and The Light, Sammlung Essl, Austria
2003    Bushfire, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane QLD
2001    Spirit & Vision, Sammlung Essl, Austria
2000    Aboriginal Lawman- Masterworks, Australian Exhibition Centre, Chicago, USA
2000    Papunya Tula Genesis and Genius, Australia Gallery, NSW
2000    Aboriginal Art Galleries of Australia, Melbourne VIC
1999    Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, USA
1999    Flinders Art Museum, Flinders University, Adelaide SA
1999    Spirit Country, San Francisco/Touring
1998    Jinta Gallery, Sydney
1996    Twenty Five Years and Beyond: Papunya Tula Painting, Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide, SA
1995    Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne VIC.” 2001, 2003 Chapel off Chapel Gallery, Me
1994    Yiribana, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
1994    Power of the Land, Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria
1994    Dreamings – Tjukurrpa: Aboriginal Art of the Western Desert
1994    The Donald Kahn collection, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich
1994    Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs
1994    The Eleventh National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
1994    Australian Heritage Commission National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Exhibition, Old Parliament House, Canberra
1993    Aboriginal Art Exhibition, Kung Gubunga,Oasis Gallery, Broadbeach, Qld
1993    Tjukurrpa, Desert Dreamings, Aboriginal Art from Central Australia (1971-1993), Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth WA
1993    Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs
1992    Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs
1992    The Ninth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
1991    The Eighth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
1991    Flash Pictures, National Gallery of Australia
1991    Australian Aboriginal Art from the Collection of Donald Kahn, Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, USA
1991    Aboriginal Paintings from the Desert, Union of Soviet Artists Gallery, Moscow and Museum of Ethnographic Art, St. Petersburg, Russia.
1990    National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome
1990    Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
1990    Paintings from the Desert, Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings, Plimsoll Gallery, Centre for the Arts, Hobart, Tasmania
1990    The Seventh National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
1989    Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
1989    Aboriginal Art: The Continuing Tradition, National Gallery of Australia
1988    Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
1987    Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
1986    Roar Studios, Melbourne
1983    Mori Gallery, Sydney


Artbank, Sydney
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.
Campbelltown City Art Gallery
Donald Kahn collection, Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami.
Medibank Private Collection
Musee des Arts Africans et Oceaniens, Paris.
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
Supreme Court of Northern Territory, Darwin.
The Holmes a Court Collection, Perth.

Title: Two Boys at Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay) 1992
Details: Synthetic polymer paint on linen, bears artist’s name and Papunya Tula artists catalogue number RT920828 on the reverse, 152 x 122 cm
Auction Price: $79,812
Auction House: Sotheby’s Australia, Important Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 24/06/2002, Lot No. 40
355 works listed from the 1970’s onwards.

  • Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, Untitled

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