Yanatjarri Tjakamarra : Aboriginal Paintings
Yanatjarri Tjakamarra was one of the founding members of the Western desert Aboriginal art movement. In the early part of his career, he painted on Composition board. His Early paintings being less than 60 cm x 60 cm. Many of his early works are ritual and contain secret imagery meant only for the eyes of initiated men. His later works are on Canvass but maintain a very high standard and are amongst the best works of this region.
The aim of this article is to assist readers in identifying if their Aboriginal painting is by Yanatjarri Tjakamarra. It compares examples of his work. It also gives some background to the life of this fascinating artist.
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Yanatjarri Tjakamarra early Life
Yanatjarri Tjakamarra was born around 1938. He spent his first 30 years in a traditional nomadic desert aboriginal lifestyle. He was one of the last aboriginal nomads to leave his homeland and resettle at the town of Papunya.
Geoff Bardon a local school teacher had encouraged local people to paint and record their traditional stories. Antajari Tjakamarra was one of these early western desert painters. The painters would congregate after work and discuss their stories and experiment artistically. From the outset, he emerged as a focused and compelling artist.
Yanatjarri Tjakamarra earliest paintings often were of ceremonial objects. These objects were often on a black background. Many of these ceremonial objects were secret and sacred. It is a testament to his customary authority that he could paint them.
Yanatjari’s early works were strongly influenced by the precise line work of Kaapa Tjampitjinpa. This precise line work soon came to characterize his own paintings.
Bardon played a crucial role as friend and adviser for Yanatjarri Tjakamarra. He guided his raw intensity of early experimentation. He helped him develop a more disciplined and workable visual language.
Yanatjarri Tjakamarra Pink Period
Yanatjarri Tjakamarra abandoned the plain black background. His backgrounds soon became red and white designs. These red an white designs often combine to be a wonderful deep pink impression. He would paint sacred objects or elements and designs found on sacred objects. His art was ritually very correct. It contained secret imagery meant only for the eyes of initiated men.
Yanatjarri’s painting allowed him to spiritually connect with his country. To keep in contact with the sacred sites that gave life and meaning to his tribe. You can feel this connection in his early works. He was, as Bardon put it, ‘forever traveling west to his beloved homelands and affirming the sacredness of the places there’
His paintings were a graphic network, of lines of travel. These lines linked sites or resting places and form a dense map of Pintupi country. Many of his paintings are depictions of ceremony associated with the Tingari Cycle, Yanatjari, worked with concentrated attention and quickly refined his method. He helped to forge the distinctive Pintupi style.
Yanatjarri Tjakamarra Later period
In the early 1980’s Yanatjarri Tjakamarra moved from Papunya and established a camp at Tjukula in Western Australia. At Tjukula he continued to paint and sold his paintings independently.
He painted on canvass and linen which allowed him to paint much larger works. These larger works were often more abstract and less dictated by custom.
Unlike some other early Papunya Artists Antajari doesn’t seem to have fallen into the trap of churning out pieces by lowering quality. It is this that allows some of his later works on Canvas to become the most valuable.
From Tjukula he painted works which would be in several landmark exhibitions. His works were in Dot and Circle 1985 and later in Face of the Centre. In 1988 his works were in Dreamings and The Inspired Dream exhibitions.
He moved and lived at the new settlement of Kiwirrkurra in the mid 1980’s. Prior to his death in 1992, had solo exhibitions at John Weber Gallery in New York and Gabrielle Pizzi Gallery in Melbourne.
He was the first of the Western Desert painters to be in a major international art collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York acquired his painting from the Papunya Tula exhibition in 1988.
Tjakamarra may also be spelled Jakamarra or Djakamarra
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Yanatjarri Tjakamarra Images
The following images are not the complete known work by this artist but give a good idea of his style and range.