A cave Dreaming
The sparseness of this painting is indicative of the essential linear symbolism that lies at the heart of much of the Central Desert aesthetic. The use of only three colours (black, white and red) gives the composition a starkness which appears as a dominant characteristic of Anatjari Tjakamarra's work. The construction of the composition around a series of concentric squares introduces the illusion of three-dimensionality, which led some early commentators to draw comparisons with aspects of 1960s Op Art.While maintaining a strong adherence to his traditional artistic roots, Anatjari developed a compositional complexity which finds a strong resonance with much contemporary art throughout the world. This feature of his work remains one of many mysteries of a style of art that has developed over thousands of years.
Curatorial insightAnatjari Tjakamarra was born at Ngaanyatjarra (Ngumatja) near Kulkuta, a large rockhole near the Pollock Hills in Western Australia. He and his two wives and two daughters were among the last Pintupi people to be contacted by the Northern Territory Welfare Branch patrols, this particular patrol being documented in Douglas Lockwood's book The Lizard Eaters (1964). They moved to Papunya in 1966, and Tjakamarra was working as a gardener at the school when Geoffrey Bardon arrived there. He became a foundation member of the original Papunya group of painters. In the early 1980s, he established Tjukula outstation between Walungurru (Kintore) and Docker River, where he lived and worked throughout the decade. He had a solo exhibition at the John Weber Gallery, New York, in 1989, and his painting Tingari cycle Dreaming at Paratjakulti 1989 became the first work by a Western Desert artist to enter a major international collection when it was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (Perkins and Fink, Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius, 2000)