Year : c. 1932 – 2002
Language : Anmatyerre
‘We three start painting: Tim Leura, Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, Clifford. Before everybody. This is Papunya – and outside from Papunya. First on art board and on carving.’
Source : Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri in Johnson,
The Art of Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, 1994
About the Artist :
Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri was born at Napperby Station, north-west of Alice Springs. Clifford father was , ‘One Pound’ Jimmy Tjungurrayi, who was born at Ngarlu, and featured prominently in the Australian consiciousness as the ‘face’ of Central Australia in a series of Australian stamps issued between the years 1950 and 1966.
Clifford Posssum’s mother, Long Rose Nangala, was from Warlugulong, south-west of Yuendumu, the site and story depicted in Warlugulong, 1976, one of the artist’s most famous paintings. This specially commissioned work, painted in collaboration with Clifford Possum’s older brother, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri, was first exhibited in Australian Perspecta 1981 and subsequently acquired by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
The creation of this painting was recorded in the BBC documentary Desert Dreamers, part of the‘World About Us’ – series.
In common with many other Western Desert artists, from his teenage years until he started painting for Papunya Tula Artists, Clifford Possum worked as a stockman on cattle stations established in his ancestral country. He was also employed as a labourer on the construction of the Papunya settlement.
Along with Kaapa Tjampitjinpa and his brother Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri, Clifford Possum had been painting in the 1960s before Geoffrey Bardon’s arrival at Papunya. Clifford was also a renowned woodcarver. It was Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri who introduced him to Geoffrey Bardon, ( the Art teacher that came to Papunya in 1970. It was Bardon’s teachings and influence that sparked what is now known as the Central Desert Art Movement. )
Tim, stating ; ‘I can’t beat him’.
Between 1976 and 1980 Clifford Possum - ( occasionally in collaboration with Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri ) painted a series of large canvases that depict sites across his country – a vast area of Central Australia. These paintings were among the largest and most complex Papunya Tula paintings produced at that time. Possum was elected chairman of Papunya Tula Artists during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1983 he became the first Aboriginal person to win the ‘Alice Prize’ with Mulga Seed Dreaming, 1983. He has had a retrospective exhibition at het Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (188) and a solo exhibition at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery London (1990). It was on this occasion, Clifford Possum met with Queen Elizabeth II while wearing his own hand painted sneakers.
Clifford Possum’s paintings have been included in all the influential survey exhibitions of Papunya Tula and Western Desert art, including ‘Aboriginal Artists of Australia’ (1981), ‘The Face of the Centre’ (1985), ‘Dreamings’ (1988-89), ‘East to West’ (1990), ‘Aratjara’ (1993-94), ‘Dreamings of the Desert’ (1996), ‘Twenty-five Years and Beyond’ (1999) and ‘Genesis and Genius’ (2000).
One of the most widely travelled of all the Papunya artists, from the mid-1980s until his death, Clifford Possum lived principally in Alice Springs.
Sadly, Clifford died on the 21st of June , 2002.
Collections :~ National Gallery of Australia.
~ National Museum of Australia.
~ Art Gallery of New South Wales.
~ Parliament House, Canberra.
~ National Gallery of Victoria.
~ South Australian Art Gallery.
~ South Australian Museum.
~ Queensland Art Gallery.
~ Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs, N.T.
~ Flinders University Art Museum.
~ University of W.A Anthropology Museum.
~ Auckland City Art Gallery,N.Z.