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Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri
, 2002

by Tim Johnson

oil and polymer vinyl paint on canvas (support: 152.5 cm x 114.8 cm)

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri AO (1933–2002) was a pioneer of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement that emerged at the Papunya settlement in Central Australia. An Anmatyerre man, he was born on Napperby Station near Alice Springs. While working as a stockman, he developed a profound knowledge of the Dreaming trails and sites that crisscross the McDonnell Ranges. His experience later informed a series of large ‘map paintings’ in which he portrayed these trails as deeds of title to his ancestral land. A retrospective in London in 1988 and his first solo exhibition – also in London – in 1990 brought him critical acclaim in Europe and North America. Toward the end of his life Tjapaltjarri was recognised as one of Australia’s great painters.

Tim Johnson frequently incorporates symbols and motifs drawn from Asian and Aboriginal cultures in his work. He first visited the Papunya settlement in the 1970s, documenting, collecting and promoting its art, and later collaborating with a number of Papunya artists, including Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. Johnson’s portrait of his colleague includes symbols and scenes relating to Tjapaltjarri’s life.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2002
Accession number: 2002.72