Mitukatjirri bears artist's name, medium, date and collection details on a label on the reverse synthetic polymer paint on composition board 122 x 90cm
PROVENANCE: Painted in 1980 Artist's collection until 1987 Private collection, Sydney Sotheby's, Contemporary and Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 18 June 1995, lot 373 Private collection
LITERATURE: Andrew Crocker, Charlie Tjaruru Tjungarrayi, A Retrospective 1970-1986, Orange: Orange City Council, 1987, p.72, pl.22, p.73 (illus.).
EXHIBITED: Charlie Tjaruru Tjungarrayi, A Retrospective 1970-1986, Orange Regional Gallery, New South Wales, 1987; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; The Ivan Dougherty Gallery, City Art Institute, Sydney; New England Regional Art Museum, South Hill; University Art Museum, University of Queensland, Brisbane; Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
Charlie Tarawa (or Tjararu) Tjungurrayi was one of the original artists at Papunya and among the first share-holders in the artists' cooperative, Papunya Tula Artists, when it was formed in 1972. He was also the first Western Desert Artist to be given a full-scale retrospective exhibition. Charlie Tjaruru Tjungarrayi, A Retrospective 1970-1986, was curated by the late Andrew Crocker who was the manager of the artists' cooperative at Papunya in 1980 and 1981. Mitukatjirri, 1980, featured in the exhibition.
Crocker's catalogue essay was written at a time when Aboriginal art especially that from the desert was struggling to gain acceptance as fine art. He was told that for that to happen, an artist should be able to hold a retrospective exhibition (Crocker, 1987, p.10). The statement urged him to undertake the task. In the essay, Crocker emphasises the aesthetic qualities of Tjungurrayi's paintings yet he acknowledges the need to understand the social and cultural contexts in which art is made to gain a fuller appreciation of depth of meaning and the visual poetry of a painting. To make the point, he discusses only one painting in the exhibition at length. It is Mitukatjirri, 1980. In brief, Crocker's description runs thus:
'The painting tells the story of Mitukatjirri ... a sacred cave in which ... ancestors carried out ceremonies ... About a half mile from the cave is an array of unusual rocky outcrops. These are represented by the concentric circles. Thus the painting has a topographical quality. The story continues that during the ceremonies the men were supposed to observe the rules of celibacy but that they sneaked off and consorted with their women who were located at, and indeed, are represented by the self same rocky outcrops. Thus a narrative quality occupies the painting ... It will be readily apparent that this is a cautionary tale which draws attention to the do's and don'ts of traditional law while tempering the caution with a recognition of human weakness. A strong sexual element pervades this as many others of Tjaruru's stories ...' (ibid. p.27).