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George Tjungurrayi
, 2002

by Matthys Gerber

oil on canvas (support: 180.0 cm x 135.0 cm)

George Tjungurrayi (b. c. 1943), Pintupi artist, was born around Kiwirrkura in the remote deserts of Central Australia and moved to Papunya in 1960. He began painting with the senior men at Papunya Tula in 1976. At first, he painted classical representations of the Tingarri cycle, but having settled in Kintore in the 1980s he settled on his characteristic style, his paintings comprising distinctive topographical lines. Becoming known as one of the masters of contemporary western desert art, he had six solo exhibitions between 1997 and 2006 and his group exhibitions include Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2000. His dazzling, huge paintings of the Tingarri Cycle are represented in the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales and in European collections including the Musée de Quai Branly. Tjungurrayi’s work was paired with that of the video artist Laurent Grasso to sensational effect at the 21st Biennale of Sydney in the autumn of 2018. The solo exhibition George Tjungurrayi Major Works showed at Utopia Art, Sydney in March 2018.

Matthÿs Gerber treated this portrait as a series of coloured planes, contour mapping the artist’s face as a cartographer might map a landscape, to evoke Tjungarrayi’s shimmery, hovery depictions of country. It is one of a series of searching portraits in which Gerber attempted to merge portraiture, landscape and colour field painting.

Matthÿs Gerber was born in the Netherlands, and has lived in Australia since 1972. Investigating the modes of representation used throughout the history of European painting up to the present day, he ranges from representational landscapes to abstract images and installations and from photorealism to geometric abstraction as he ‘seeks out the failings of images’ and superimposes contradictory painting techniques. Gerber has worked in the Sydney University Power Studio in Paris, and in The Hague under the Samstag Scholarship. His remarkably diverse works are held by the National Gallery, the state galleries of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and numerous regional, corporate and university collections.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Pamela Hansford 2007
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2007.26