Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula

Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula was born in Mintjilpirri, south of Lake Mackay around 1918. He was one of the Pintupi people and he spoke the Western Desert language. Johnny first encountered white civilization in 1930 when he hid in a tree upon seeing a plane, which he understood to be a devil. In 1932 he met an Adelaide University expedition at Mt. Liebig and afterwards, his family moved to Hermannsburg, where Johnny worked as a labourer constructing the airstrip. He continued working in construction. In 1954, Johnny was chosen, along with Nosepeg Tjupurrula, as an Aboriginal representative to meet Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1971 Warangkula was involved in the painting of the famous Honey Ant murals on a school at Papunya. This was the beginning of the Australian aboriginal art movement in general and consequently also of Johnny Warangkula’s painting career. Johnny acquired painting material and soon developed his own personal style. He was the first to use the dotting technique to describe vegetation, often applying several layers of ‘overdotting'. Johnny remained an important force in the painting movement until the mid 1980s, when his failing eyesight reduced his artistic output. His work often depicted Water Dreaming stories, as well as Yam, Fire, Dingo, Wallaby and Egret. Many of his paintings stand out from work by other Australian Aboriginal artists in the way they present the transitory beauty of water and its transformative effect on the landscapes represented in his works.

Johnny Warangkula’s works are in all major museum collections in Australia and sought after by international collectors.


2021 ‘Lineage &Legacy’, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Australia

2021 ‘Aboriginalities’, Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels, Belgium

2018 EXPO Chicago, SmithDavidson Gallery, Chicago, USA
2015 ‘Signs and Traces. Contemporary Aboriginal Art’, Zamek Culture Centre, Poznan, Poland
2011 'Origins of Western Desert Art: Tjukurrtjanu', The Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
2010 ‘Desert Country’, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
2001 'Icons of Australian Aboriginal Art,' Singapore
1999 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, USA
1999 'Tjinytjilpa', Embassy of Australia, Washington, USA
1999 Flinders Art Museum Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
1993 Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
1991 Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Miami, USA
1989 Australian National Gallery, Canberra, Australia
1989 Westpac Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
1989 'Mythscapes', National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
1988 Wagga Wagga City Art Gallery, Wagga Wagga, Australia
1982 London, England
1982 Brisbane Festival, Brisbane, Australia
1982 George Paton Gallery, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
1981 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

Born in Mintjilpirri, Western Australia on November 30th, 1917

Died in *unknown* on November 30th, 2000

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