Man Growing Old, Balls Going Walkabout (Medicine Story) synthetic polymer paint on composition board 47 x 25cm (18 1/2 x 9 13/16in).
PROVENANCE: Painting 10, consignment 2 to the Stuart Art Centre, Alice Springs, December 1971 Private collection Sotheby's, Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 9 July 2001, lot 131 Private collection
LITERATURE Geoffrey Bardon and James Bardon, Papunya, A Place Made After the Story: The Beginnings of the Western Desert Painting Movement, Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, 2004, p.303, painting 245 (illus.).
The image is an early rendition of two of Tjangala's magna opera, the monumental Old Man's Dreaming, 1983, in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia (illustrated in Hetti Perkins and Hannah Fink, (eds.), Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales in association with Papunya Tula Artists, 2000, p. 92, and in Peter Sutton, (ed.), Dreamings. The art of Aboriginal Australia, Melbourne: Viking in association with The Asia Society Galleries, New York, 1988, p.136, fig. 178, catalogue number 61) and Yumari, 1981 in the collection of the National Museum of Australia (illustrated in Sutton, 1988, p.137, fig.179, cat. no.62, and in Vivien Johnson, (ed.), Papunya painting, Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press, 2007, p.97). The work represents one of Tjangala's earliest attempts to represent a tumultuous episode of the Tjukurrpa upon which he elaborated in great detail in the large canvases of the 1980s.
The narrative on which the painting is based refers to an ancestral Old Man (Yina) who possessed dangerous magical powers. In an open version of the chronicle, the man had sexual relationships with a woman classified as his mother-in-law in kinship terms, or of equivalent kinship status, a union that is forbidden under traditional Pintupi law. As punishment for his misdeeds, the man's genitals took on a life of their own and travelled across the land ('went walkabout'). It is a cautionary tale intended to emphasise the correct traditional rules of marriage. The Old Man travelled westward from Kampurarrpa near the Ehrenberg Range through Sandy Blight Junction to Yumari and beyond.
The painting symbolically represents images of the man's penis and testicles, and, according to Geoffrey Bardon's field notes (reproduced in Bardon and Bardon 2004, p.303), the U-shapes represent men participating in ceremony.