Vue de l'exposition "Aux sources de la peinture aborigène"
08 Oct 2012 20 Jan 2013

Aux sources de la peinture aborigène

Australia, Tjukurrtjanu

For the first time in Europe, this exhibition presents a major artistic movement, born in 1971-1972 in the community of Papunya, at the heart of the central Australian desert.

About the exhibition

By transposing  the motifs employed in ephemeral ritual paintings onto recycled wooden panels, the Aboriginal artists of Papunya created an astonishingly inventive formal art, saturated with meaning. These works change the manner of understanding the territory and conceiving the history of Australian art. With more than 160 canvases and almost 100 objects and photographs from the period, the exhibition presents the iconographical and spiritual sources of the Papunya movement and traces its development from the first panels to the large canvases of the early 1980s.


    • Judith Ryan, Senior Curator, Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
    • Philipp Batty, Senior Curator, Central Australia, Museum Victoria, Melbourne


    • Philippe Peltier, Head Conservator, Head of the Oceania/Insulindia Collections at the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
  • Place:   Galerie Jardin
  • TimeSlots:  
    From Monday 08 October 2012 at Sunday 20 January 2013
  • Closed on monday
    Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday:  10:30 am-07:00 pm
  • Accessibility:
    • Handicap visuel
    • LSF
    • Handicap mental
    • Handicap moteur
  • Public:   All publics
  • Categorie : Exhibitions
Vue de l'exposition "Aux sources de la peinture aborigène"
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Aux sources de la peinture Aborigène - Bande-annonce de l'exposition
Bande-annonce de l'exposition "Aux sources de la peinture Aborigène", présentée au musée du quai Branly du 9 octobre 2012 au 20 janvier 2013. Pour en savoir plus, rendez-vous sur :
1:49 min

Exhibition synopsis

Introductory sequence

The works of the Papunya Tula movement have their iconographic source in the living tradition of the Aboriginals of the central desert: ancestral designs on the shields, flint knives, headbands, ephemeral paintings on the ground and body art paintings. This sequence is designed as a prelude so that visitors can associate Aboriginal painting with the great principles which underpin it.

This section comprises nearly 70 objects, especially head adornments, ancient and contemporary, etched propellers (for lance or arrow), forty painted or etched shields. Two audio-visual programmes complete the presentation of the objects: a slide show of photographs relating to the ceremonies of the linguistic group Arrernte and a film on the Ngajakula ceremony (Warlpiri fire ceremony).

the first anmatyerr artists

The history of the birth of the movement is told in the exhibition through extracts from a video made by Geoffrey Bardon, schoolteacher at Papunya. He encouraged the teenage students in his class to create works inspired by their own traditional motifs. He also conceived an ambitious project to decorate the external walls of the school, which would eventually lead to the creation of a mural painting of the honey ant by the older Aboriginals. Paintings by the earliest artists - notably Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri and Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra - are presented in this part of the exhibition.

Water dreaming

The artiste Walter Tjampitjinpa and Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula are famous for painting numerous works in 1971-1972 that make reference to water dreaming. The sinuous motifs seen in the works of Walter Tjampitjinpa portray the meanders of a water course while the over-dotting technique of Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula - a recurrent motif in his work - represents the new vegetation.

secret paintings

Sacred works, which Aboriginal women and children are forbidden to look at, are displayed in an enclosed space. The objects, places and motifs represented in these paintings are linked to secret ceremonies reserved for male Aboriginal initiates. There is only one entrance to this space and it carries a warning, in English and French, about the forbidden character of the works which are exhibited there. Some twenty works by various artists are shown together within this thematic space.


Pintupi is the name of an Aboriginal language, spoken in the western desert, situated in the Northern Territory of Australia. By extension, the term is used for the inhabitants of this region. The Pintupi artists began to work with different techniques: crayon and watercolour on paper rather than painting on panels of wood. The linearity and sobriety of these early works are now recognised as essential to the Papunya movement.

The movement's evolution

In the final exhibition room there are some very large works (2 metres by nearly 7 metres long), which are the most recent (1974-1994) by the artists Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri, Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri and Uta Uta Tjangala. They provide an insight into the evolution of aboriginal painting by illustrating how panels of wood were gradually abandoned in favour of vast canvases.