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Fire Dreaming Discover the best available selection of paintings by the artist Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. Buy from art galleries around the world with Kooness!
35100 EUR

Fire Dreaming


Single piece

35100,00 €


187 x 110 cm
73.62 x 43 in







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When the artists at Papunya began to paint for the public domain in 1971 they were faced with a number of challenges and dilemmas. Chief amongst these was the notion of depicting sacred objects and designs that are, according to traditional law, not to be viewed by non-initiated people or outsiders. The dilemma they faced was that of producing paintings that would retain their cultural integrity and remain meaningful and significant to the artist and his people, yet would also be appropriate for public viewing. One strategy they developed was to reveal only the general interpretations of a painting—the ‘outside’ story—rather than the innermost secret meanings of the imagery. This strategy has now been adopted by Indigenous artists across Australia. Another device developed by the senior artists at Papunya was to emphasise particular elements of the visual lexicon.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri was one of the most innovative artists, developing images such as Bushfire II 1972. The work is about one of the artist’s favourite themes: the ancestral narrative of Lungkata the Blue-Tongued Lizard, who punished his two sons for not sharing their catch with him. Lungkata created the first bushfire that swept across the land and engulfed the boys at Warlugulong. The painting depicts the site where the bush- fire started—it features a series of roundels representing camps, and the tracks of an ancestral Possum. Tjapaltjarri has painted over parts of these designs with patches of dotting, representing clouds of smoke and ash, to suggest that the sacred/secret aspects of the painting are hidden from sight. (By author Wally Caruana)

1932 Alice Springs, Australia

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).

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