Aboriginal Artist Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula

Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula

Born: c. 1938

Deceased: 2001

Language Group: Pintupi / Luritja

Country: Walungurru Region, West of Alice Springs

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas and Linen

Subjects: Straightening of the Spears, Women's Story, Mani- Mani, Snake, Bush fire, and Mitukutjarrayi Dreaming.

Turkey Tolson was known as one of the youngest artists of the original group of Papuny Tula artists. Papunya Tula was referred to as 'arguably the most important movement in the history of Australian painting'. It began in March-April 1971, named after its birth place Papunya, by a group of Papunya men and the help of three staff members at the local school. Turkey was enthusiastic to learn the art and was influenced by many of the older artists of the group. He eventually became one of the most well known Australian artists, combining his knowledge of the culture with a new expression.

Turkey's paintings speak his cultural stories through a linear style and dot work, which hides his sacred ancestral designs from the uninitiated. Dreamtime stories that Turkey owns and has painted during his career include the Bush Fire, Emu, Snake, Mani-Mani, Women's Story, Mitukutjarrayi and Straightening of the Spears. Probably the most well known story that Turkey painted was the straightening of the spears. It incorporates the stories of mythological men, camping at a site called Illyingaugau. Turkey would depict the spears being straightened over a fire with straight lines, either linear or dot, and alternating colour. With each of Turkey's paintings, as is evident with many western artists, he incorporates the whole of the story into the simplistic designs on the canvas. Within the paintings are the body paint designs, the dancing, the singing, the ceremony for the story, the ground painting, the sacred sites, the ancient ancestors, the evolution of their culture.

The colours used by Turkey were that of the traditional ochre red, yellow, brown, black and white. These colours were encouraged by Geoffrey Bardon who wanted him and the other men to be influenced as much as they could by their own western methods.


Artbank, Sydney

Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth

Berndt Museum of Anthropology, University of W.A., Perth

Darwin Supreme Court

Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide

Mbantua Gallery Private Collection, Alice Springs

Museum of Victoria, Melbourne

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane

Sails Collection, Sails in the Desert Hotel, Yulara Complex, Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park

South Australian Museum, Adelaide

The Holmes á Court Collection, Perth

The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, U.S.A

Victorian Centre for Performing Arts, Melbourne


1992 The Ninth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
1992 New Tracks Old Land, An Exhibition of Contemporary Prints from Aboriginal Australia, Touring USA and Australia
1993 Aboriginal Art Exhibition, Kung Gubunga, Oasis Gallery, Broadbeach Qld
1993 Tjukurrpa, Desert Dreaming, Aboriginal Art from Central Australia (1971-1993), Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, W.A
1993 The Tenth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
1995 The Twelfth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
1999 'Authenticity', Melbourne's Aboriginal Art Galleries of Australia, Melbourne


Further References

Crocker, A. (ed.), 1981, Mr Sandman Bring Me a Dream, Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd, Alice Springs and Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd, Sydney. ©
Maughan, J; Zimmer, J. (eds), 1986, Dot and Circle, A Retrospective Survey of the Aboriginal Acrylic Paintings of Central Australia, exhib. Cat., Communication Services Unit, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, ©
Chanin, E. 1990, (ed.), Contemporary Australian Painting, Craftsman House, Roseville, NSW, Australia
Zurbrugg, N. 1991, Tim Johnson interviewed, Art and Australia quarterly, Vol 29, No.1, Spring 1991
Wallace, D; Desmond, M; Caruana, W. 1991, Flash Pictures, exhib. Cat., National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Caruana, W. 1993, Aboriginal Art, Thames and Hudson, London. ©
Perkins H. 'Beyond the Year of Indigenous Peoples' in Art and Australia 1993 Vol 31 No 1 p98-101
Johnson, V. 1994, The Dictionary of Western Desert Artists, Crafsman House, East Roseville, NSW. ©
McCulloch, A. & McCulloch, S., 1994, The Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd, St Leonards, NSW
Schulz, D. 1994, Lines from the Dreamtime, The Australian Way, Qantas in flight magazine, May 1994