Streets of Papunya: the re-invention of Papunya painting: 6 May – 11 June 2016

Indigenous art expert Vivien Johnson, and her new book Streets of Papunya.
Indigenous art expert Vivien Johnson, and her new book Streets of Papunya.

Streets of Papunya: the re-invention of Papunya painting is an ambitious showcase of artists from this famed Western Desert arts centre. After officially opening at UNSW Galleries on 2 October 2015, RMIT Gallery will be the only Victoria venue for the exhibition, which will run from 6 May – 11 June 2016.

In addition to new paintings from Papunya Tjupi, RMIT Gallery will will feature new works from Victorian collectors in the exhibition, as well as a tailored public program of events including lectures, floor talks, and teacher Professional Development seminars.

Curated by eminent scholar of Papunya art Vivien Johnson, Streets of Papunya celebrates the renaissance of painting that has occurred in one of the best-known locations of art production in Central Australia, since the establishment of the Papunya Tjupi Arts Centre in 2007.

Artists in the exhibition from past and present include Albert Namatjira, Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula, Martha McDonald Napaltjarri, Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri.

In particular, the exhibition reveals the remarkable art of the women painters of Papunya today in its contemporary sociological and historical contexts, alongside short films that explore the reality of life in Papunya, and the famous paintings of the current generation’s ancestors.

Streets of Papunya includes some of the first women painters in the desert, who joined the original Papunya art movement in the early 1980s, and the daughters of many of the ground-breaking Papunya Tula artists of the 1970s. 

Curator Vivien Johnson, whose new book Streets of Papunya: the re-invention of Papunya painting (NewSouth Publishing) was launched as part of the exhibition, says her research has unearthed the history of Papunya as a site of art production since its establishment in the late 1950s.

Key works borrowed for the exhibition from public institutions include Albert Namatjira’s final paintings, executed in Papunya days before his death in 1959; paintings from Papunya’s glory days of the 1970s and ’80s, (known as its dark time as the ‘carpetbagging capital of the desert’), through to its inspirational resurgence today as its artists reinvent Papunya painting for the twenty-first century.

Highlighting the work of early, established and emerging artists, The Streets of Papunya reiterates the rich cultural history of painting in Central Australia through the eyes of the contemporary generation.

  • TEACHERS: To register your interest for FREE Professional Development sessions with Vivien Johnson for dates (TBC) in May 2016: phone RMIT Gallery on (03) 9925 1717.
  • EDUCATION KITS: Download your free Education Kit here
  • SCHOOL GROUPS: FREE bookings for tours during the exhibition – phone RMIT Gallery (03) 9925 1717.
  • PUBLIC PROGRAM EVENTS: Please check RMIT Gallery blog and website for updates.