Songlines' Paintings from Balgo Hills, Page 2



TVB 8. Following the Soakages, Helicopter Tjungurrayi, 1996, 47 " x 31" For Sale

This painting depicts the country traditionally belonging to the artist out in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia. Specifically, it maps the area surrounding a series of three soakages called Paritju Kutjarra which have good reliable water, as well as a fourth soakage known as Mungil, which also supplies “living” fresh water to the surrounding countryside. Helicopter describes the surrounding country as “sandhill country.”

Helicopter Tjungurrayi, who is in his late fifties, is one of the younger generation of artists at Balgo Hills. He speaks Kukatja language and grew up near Jupiter Well in the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts. This country lies about halfway between Kiwirrkura and “Well 33” along the Canning Stock Route. Helicopter was given his name as a result of an incident in the 196Os, when he fell seriously ill and was collected by a flying doctor in the first helicopter seen in the area. Now a marpan or medicine man himself, Helicopter practices as a traditional healer in the Balgo community. A few years ago the name Helicopter became kumanjayi, meaning that it cannot be spoken aloud because the prefix “Hel” sounds like the name of someone else who has died, and if spoken would call up their spirit. As a result, Helicopter was for a time renamed “Chopper.”

Helicopter was married to the artist Lucy Yukenbarri, who recently passed away. Helicopter began painting in about 1995. He has participated with other artists from Warlayirti Arts in exhibitions in Australian capital cities, in the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden. His paintings are held in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and featured on the cover of the journal Revue du Louvre, Paris, in 1998. He has become a much-sought-after artist, known for his use of brilliant blue, red, black, and white striping zigzag vertical meanders. His work is in numerous public and private collections, including Levi- Kaplan Collection, Seattle Fine Art Museum, the Gantner Myer Collection, De Young Museum, (Spirit Country pgs 150 and 151) The Kluge-Ruhe Collection (Art from the Land, cover image) and is featured in Balgo, New Directions, James Cowans 1999, pgs.106, 116, 130, 136.