Ray James Tjangala

Australian Aboriginal Artwork Ray James Tjangala

Ray James Tjangala is a great artist that emerged from the apprenticeship to one of the pioneer painters of Papunya who founded the desert painting movement, Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi, Ray James Tjangala quickly caught the public’s attention with the powerful and cyclic nature of his works that usually contain interlocking grid patterns signifying important ceremonial activities. Largely influenced by his mentor, much of his works depict the ceremonial activities done to the coming of age of young men. His paintings usually tell the story of the Tingari Tjukurrpa or Tingari dreaming. Tingari men were said to be a group of ancestral beings of the dreamings who traveled long stretches to perform rituals and shape particular sites. Since most of the events regarding the Tingari Cycle are sacred not much detail was given about it yet most of the travels and adventures of Tingari men are preserved in their song cycles which provide much explanation for their contemporary customs. Some aspects of his paintings are secret and are known only to the initiated. Usually, his paintings are presented in two color schemes that greatly harmonize with the way he explores the possibilities of optical lines and curves on a canvas surface. This, in turn, entails an illusionary effect to its audiences.

Born in the Yunala rock hole in the western desert which is west in Kiwirrkura in 1958, Tjangala was one of three artist sons of one of the founding members of the Papunya Art Movement, the artist Anatjari Tjampitjinpa. His brothers were George Yapa Yapa and Mantua, both like himself professional aboriginal artists.

Though having a prominent artist father and brothers, Tjangala did not start painting seriously until the ’90s which was after their family crossed the desert with him at the age of six under the assistance of the Welfare Patrol. This was also the time when their family met Douglas Lockwood who later came about writing “The Lizard Eaters” in 1964 where their family became part of the subjects pictured in print. This book told the story of the nomadic people who emerged from the desert. The family subsequently moved to Papunya.

Later in his life as a Papunya Tula Artist, Tjangala moved further west to Kiwirrkura returning to his home country together with his wife Donna Nungurrayi. This time his art became more prominent and invigorated that he became one of the most recognizable artists working for the Papunya Tula Artists company. Making his residence in Kiwirrkura, he regularly exhibits in Paris, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and Australia.