George (Wilyirinya) ‘Hairbrush’ Tjungurrayi
George Tjungurrayi, a Pintupi man, was born circa 1943 around Walawala near Kiwirrkurra in Western Australia.
He lived a traditional nomadic life until he came in from the desert in Western Australia by walking through Mt Doreen Station and Yuendumu to Papunya (established by the government to assimilate Aboriginal people). In 1962 George was a guide for Jeremy Long’s Welfare Branch patrol west into Pintupi country where he encountered family members.
In 1976 George began painting for Papunya Tula Artists. Painting the Tingari stories, for around ten years he did the definitive Pintupi dotted grids of lines and circles.
In the late 1990’s George changed to topographical linework in a minimalist palette. For contemporary city collectors these challenging works to the ‘eye’ were reminiscent of the British Op Art School of the 1960’s. For George, being a Pintupi senior Law Man, they were important foundations of his own culture.
Tingari stories are the Ancestors travels during the Tjukurrpa (creation time) of country, teaching Law and performing ceremonies to create the diversity of the land (for example water holes, sand dunes, mountains, plants and animals). And thus, sacred sites. These stories and ceremonies are still recognised in the ‘songlines’ and teachings today although Intricate knowledge of Tingari business is still limited to senior men. There are, however, general Tingari stories permissible for other people to know that do not divulge this secret and sacred Law information.
George’s first solo exhibition was in Sydney in 1997 and by 2003 he was recognised as one of the “50 most collectable artists’ by Australian Art Collector magazine.
According to Vivien Johnson, George was allegedly given the nickname ‘Hairbrush’ by fellow Pintupi due to his wild curly hair jutting out in every direction.
George now spends most of his time living in Kintore. He married Nanupu Nangala and they had five children. His older sisters are the renowned artists Naata Nungurrayi and Nganngi (Nancy) Nungurrayi who began painting with Papunya Tula Artists in the mid 1990’s.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
Art Gallery of SA, Adelaide
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Musee du Quai Branly, Paris
Kelton Foundation, USA
Holmes a Court Collection, Perth
Johnson, Vivien, Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists, Australia. IAD Press, 2008.