The four wise men, co-curators of MAGNT’s ‘Tjungungutja’ exhibition – Long Jack Phillipus at the center of the debates
Jeremy Eccles | 08.09.20
Author: Jeremy Eccles
News Source: Research
Kumantjayi Long Tjakamarra, the last of the founding painters of Papunya, has passed away. An era is over. The 88-year-old Warlpiri man, who lived independently in Papunya after his fellow painters Pintupi left for their countries further west, died in Alice Springs hospital in late August surrounded by his family.
He inherited the rights to Kalipinypa’s famous Rain Dreaming site from both parents, and in 2015 accompanied family members and compatriots on a visit there as the site’s primary custodian. Soon after, he celebrated the awesome power of the ancestral storms at Kalipinypa as the subject of his latest painting for Papunya Tjupi Arts, the art center he oversaw the creation of.
Thus ended an artistic career spanning more than four decades. Because, in Geoffrey Bardon’s book, ‘Papunya: a place made after history’, the author reports that Tjakamarra was the first to apply his paintbrush to the walls of the Papunya school, showing fellow gardener Billy Stockman “by example and direction” how to start the small murals that preceded the famous Honey ant wall painting project. He was not then 40 years old but benefited from the support of old Bert Tjakamarra, his brother-in-law, to take the radical step of revealing the cultural material of his art.
In fact, however, according to the authority of Vivien Johnson ‘Lives of the artists Papunya Tula‘, Tjakamarra preferred to paint his Possum Dreaming stories from Ngamarunya, to the Gibson Desert, a country he owned by birthright. The epithet “Long” got attached to his name when his family came from the deserts to Haasts Bluff as a teenager and was already 188cm tall. “His size reinforces the aura of dignity that surrounds him,” reported Peter Fannin, one of the early managers of Papunya Tula Artists, who added that Phillipus was a rare teetotaler in Papunya, encouraged by his keen sense of self. religion – both traditional and Lutheran. He was then ordained a Lutheran pastor.
In art he won the NT Golden Jubilee Art Award and won the first prize of the Alice Award in the 1980s. In 1975, and then again in the 1990s, he was elected president of the PTA by his fellow artists. Famous, he was quoted as valuing the importance of the artists of Papunya Tula, “We started, like a bushfire this painting business, and it went all over the place – north, east, south, west. . Papunya in the middle.
But perhaps Tjakamarra’s most enduring role came as the longest-serving arbiter among those pioneering councils the rest of the world can see today. This emerges from the extensive catalog accompanying the Museum & Art Gallery of the NT’s Tjungungutja exhibition – seen in Darwin and Alice. Significant research had been carried out in the years following 2012, when the gallery first announced its intention to reveal the 226 boards that its pioneering director, Colin Jack-Hinton had the foreknowledge of purchasing in the 1970s. And the arbitration involved a curatorium which presented the final exhibition. It was coordinated by Luke Scholes (former Papunya Tula Artists and now Indigenous Curator at MAGNT), and directed by Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra and his skin ‘brother’ and longtime artist, Michael Nelson Jagamara, Bobby West Tjupurrula (son of first artist, Freddy West Tjakamarra) and Joseph Jurrah Tjapaltjarri (son of Charlie Tjaruru Tjungarrayi), and Kumantjayi Anderson, now deceased, descendant of old Bert Tjakamarra, one of the oldest men in Papunya who approved the start of the painting.
They are the ones who declared that 63 of MAGNT’s boards of directors are “restricted” because “vulnerable people from the indigenous communities concerned” (in the words of an anthropologist) can “see something that is not ours”, as one of the co-commissioners explained. It’s no surprise that the secret / sacred slipped out when John Kean – another catalog essayist, who worked for PTA in the early days – was able to pronounce: will never be repeated. Because these works were created when the epic song lines that connect Aboriginal Australia were unveiled ”.
As I reported in July, a major canvas of Tjakamarra “Untitled” (Kalipinya) (1972) was then auctioned off by Bonhams and Kean (again) was cited as stating that it was typical of the compositional breakthroughs that occurred in the men’s painting room at Papunya in the months between departure by Geoffrey Bardon in August and the arrival of the next artistic advisor, Peter Fannin in December. “It was a time of incredible stylistic diversity with no one oversight,” he said. “For me it’s one of the most exciting times because people do all kinds of things… they paint with intention.”
There will undoubtedly be a lot of mourning and remembrance next weekend at the Desert Mob Exhibition and Symposium in Alice for this important man of art.
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A 1972 photo of Long Jack with the major painting Water Dreaming which sold for $ 230,000 at a recent Bonhams auction.
‘Voyages of the Serpent Larru Larru’ (1981) by Kumantjayi Long Tjakamarra in the NSW Collection Art Gallery