Nyilaryi Tjapangati-Scott Livesey Galleries.

Nyilaryi Tjapangati-Scott Livesey Galleries.

Nyilaryi Tjapangati

8 November - 9 December 2023

Nyilyari Tjapangati is a man of few words. Singular in nature and in practice, he stands apart both in the Papunya Tula Artists roster and in the remote community of Walungurru (Kintore NT), where I have had the immense pleasure of working both for, and alongside, Nyilyari for the past 18 months. 

Born in 1964 as the second son of revered Papunya Tula artist, Pinta Pinta Tjapanangka, Nyilyari has spent much of his life between Walungurru, Kiwirrkura and the sites of Wilinkarra (Lake Mackay) and Kaakuratintja (Lake MacDonald). Though not the most productive painter in terms of sheer output - and indeed, the paintings presented here embody nearly his entire output over the last two years - Nyilyari paints with a confidence and determination exemplified by only the most senior Papunya Tula artists. 

Nyilyari (right) and his brother Matthew during their visit to the gallery in Melbourne.


In the Kintore studio, where he attends most days, Nyilyari cuts a dashing figure with his bum bag and cowboy hat, calmly smoking a cigarette and surveying the chaos unfolding around him. Largely non-verbal following a stroke some years ago, Nyilyari lacks the volume that normally secures a place on the painting roster on any given day. His decision to paint is so rare that myself and my colleagues drop everything when he gestures towards a canvas and makes the dipping hand motion that symbolises a desire to paint that day. This is not to romanticise Nyilyari’s silence, however - the man is quick to excite when he mentions art workers distant or old, or become outraged at the proximity of a dog, child or dissatisfaction with colour.

Distinctive in both his unique use of symbols, the diamond-shaped rockhole and interlocking key, and his wielding of a brush instead of a watiya, Nyilyari attends to his painting with the utmost faith in his ability. While Papunya Tula works are (in)famous for their shimmering quality, particularly by the male artists, this is a movement back and forth – a wiggling of sorts. Nyilyari’s work is instead painting of great depth. He fills the segments on his canvas, working inwards from the perimeter. This quasi-circular motion results in a mark-making that is simultaneously hypnotic and soothing.

Often, however, Nyilyari shows up and doesn’t paint. Instead, he lets himself inside our house, where there is always a Fanta in the fridge for him, some noodles, a Hawthorn game on TV and an empty couch, where he can spend the day in relative peace and quiet, confident in his position as number one Western Desert.

-Jaxon Waterhouse


Scott Livesey Galleries online catalogue.






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