Billy Stockman Tjapljarri (1927 - 2015)
Men at Ilpitirri1975
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
171 x 201.5 cm
Sotheby’s Australia, Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 20/7/2009, Lot No. 67.
Private collection, Sydney
This painting illustrates the concept of manliness and relates it to the sweet potato. The vertical lines are spears, the group of circles running across the centre of the canvas are campsites, and the various tiny circles scattered throughout the image represent tufts of grass and sweet potato tubers. Painted in 1975 it is a large and important early work from the initial period of Papunya Tula art.
Billy Stockman Japaltjarriwasborn at Ilpitirri rockhole near Mt Denison, in Anmatyerr country northwest of Papunya.He was raised by his mother’s sister as a brother to Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri.During the 1950s he worked as a stockman, moving to Haasts Bluff where he married his wife, Yintinika Nampitjinpa. Through his marriage he was also bonded to the Pintupi, and the couple moved with their family to Papunya,where he became a Papunya Councillor in the 1970s and one of the founding artists of Papunya Tula.He was among the group of men who painted the now famous Honey Ant Mural at the Papunya School, and remained one of the main figures in the Papunya painting movement as it developed during the 1970s. He was also among the first to create large-scale paintings, becoming well known for his distinctive style of laying out his inherited designs against bold areas of flat dots that he applied with a chisel-profile brush, filling his compositions.
His themes include the Wild Potato, Budgerigar, Yam and Spider Dreamings of his country around Mount Dennison, and his principal story of the Two Men Ancestors who are closely related to his birthplace of Ilpitirri.
Billy was instrumental in leading the way for contemporary Aboriginal art in the region as a founder of the contemporary art movement in 1971. He was a chairman of Papunya Tula Artists from 1976-1977 and from 1975-1979 held a position as a member of the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council.He was also a Central Australian delegate to the National Aboriginal Conference in 1977-80.
Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri is considered one of the most influential and important artists of his time. In 1988 he was commissioned, together with Michael Nelson Jagamarra, to create sand paintings at the Asia Society Galleries in New York City as part of the major exhibition Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia.This exhibition traveled to Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the ‘All Black Festival’ in South Africa. His work has been seen around the world in several traveling exhibitions, as well as being featured in many galleries and collections throughout Australia. In recent years his work has been acquired by the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Berndt Museum of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia.