To Dream, to Collect

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Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

1932 - 2002 Alice Springs, Australia

2 Works exhibited

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  • About the Artist
  • Curriculum Vitae

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri led a groundbreaking career and was amongst the vanguard of Indigenous Australian artists to be recognised by the international art world. Like Albert Namatjira before him, Clifford Possum blazed a trail for future generations of Indigenous artists; bridging the gap between Aboriginal art and contemporary Australian art.

Clifford Possum was born in 1932 on Napperby Station. He worked extensively as a stockman on the cattle stations in and around his traditional country. During this time he developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Dreaming Trails that criss-cross the area to the north of the western McDonnell Ranges, which he depicts in painting his Dreamings. Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri died in Alice Springs on the day he was scheduled to be invested with the Order of Australia for his contributions to art and to the Indigenous community. His obituaries, which appeared in newspapers around the world, generally referred to him as Clifford Possum and gave his age as about 70. His two daughters, Gabriella Possum Nungurayyi and Michelle Possum Nungurayyi, are renowned artists in their own right. Gabriella also has a work in the Royal Collection. Posthumously, Tjapaltjarri's works have drawn increasing attention.

The artist's majestic painting Warlugulong (previously bought by the Commonwealth Bank for just $1,200) was auctioned by Sotheby's on 24 July 2007. Pre-auction, the work was expected to make art history as the most expensive Aboriginal canvas at auction. The work had been tipped to fetch up to A$2.5 million, more than double the then-record for Aboriginal art at auction. The work, in fact, sold for $2.4 million purchased by the National Gallery of Australia. The art of Clifford Possum is notable for its brilliant manipulation of three-dimensional space. Many of his canvasses have strong figurative elements which stand out from the highly descriptive background dotting.

In the late 70's he expanded the scope of Papunya Tula painting by placing the trails of several ancestors on the same canvas in the fashion of a road map. Within this framework, he depicted the land geographically. This laid the foundation for traditional Aboriginal Iconography to be placed on canvas. Other artists working with him took his lead and removed any elements of European Art from their work. In doing so Clifford, as well as the other artists involved with the Papunya Tula Movement helped to develop the true definition of Aboriginal Art, an art revolving around a culture, The Jukurrpa (Dreaming).

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS:

The Royal Collection UK,
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Holmes à Court Collection
Kelton Foundation
National Gallery of Australia
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia

Works by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

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1988

187 x 110 cm

35100,00 €

1999

120 x 90 cm

22700,00 €

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