Born c.1943, Walawala, Kiwirrkurra, NT
Country: Kintore, NT
George Hairbrush Tjungurrayi began painting in 1976 in Papunya and became one of the early members of the art movement that began there. Geoffrey Bardon who was the school teacher at Papunya, encouraged some of the senior men to paint a blank school wall and George’s uncle, Charlie Tjungurrayi was one of those men.
George was born in circa 1943 in Walawala, to the north-west of Kiwirrkurra in the Gibson Desert, Western Australia. His sisters, Naata Nungurrayi and Nganngi (Nancy) Nungurrayi, are both very well-known artists. George and his family lived a traditional life until they came out of the desert via Mt Doreen Station and Yuendumu. He became a guide and in 1962 led a patrol to Papunya.
The mural painted by the senior men and sparked much interest and just as much controversy, however what we know today as the Aboriginal Art Movement began. George initially assisted the senior artists in the Papunya art community and was encouraged by some of them to learn and paint. In 1976 he began to paint in his own right after encouragement from Nosepeg Tjupurrula, one of the founding artists of the Papunya art movement and a leading identity.
George’s Tingari Cycle paintings depict a vast network of Aboriginal Dreaming song lines that traverse the Western Desert region of Australia. Locations and events of the Tingari cycle frequently occur as the subject matter of Aboriginal art from all region. In Pintupi stories, a group of Tingari men (ancestral elders) - who were usually followed by groups of women and children - travelled over the Western Desert area performing rituals and creating the country. Deep knowledge of Tingari business is still very secretive and restricted to men in the community who hold an appropriate level of seniority. There are however public stories that do not disclose secret/sacred knowledge.
George's first solo exhibition was in 1997 at Utopia Art Sydney and was quickly followed by another in 1998 at Gabrielle Pizzi in Melbourne. By the end of the decade, George Hairbrush Tjungurrayi was one of Papunya's most sought-after painters. George has continued to exhibit throughout Australia and internationally. He was a finalist in the Wynne Prize 2007, and in 2006 George Tjungurrayi was Highly Commended in the 34th Alice Prize. In 2003 he was voted as one of the "50 Most Collectable Artists" by Australian Art Collector magazine.