Dot Circle and Frame: The Making of Papunya Tula Art


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Dot Circle and Frame: The Making of Papunya Tula Art
John Kean

Weight 0.75 kg

Large Flexibound format


375 pages



A dazzling and richly illustrated book tracking the beginnings and the innovation of the Papunya Tula art movement. About the Book: The course of Australian art changed in 1971. Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Johnny Warangula Tjupurrula were central to the formulation of a radical new form of desert art. Standing out among an exceptional cohort of painting men at Papunya (a remote government settlement in Central Australia) this ‘gang of four’ closely related artists deployed their inherited iconography while exploring poetic possibilities offered by paint on canvas. Each was responsible for innovations that still influence contemporary desert art. Papunya Tula art did not emerge from barren ground, and John Kean’s fine-grained study reveals the artform’s surprising sources, from its wellspring in the ceremonies of Central Australia to the popular culture of the mid-twentieth century. Rather than commencing his analysis in 1971, John Kean foregrounds the contested intercultural context in which the artists came into manhood, showing how they achieved their agency, first as stockmen and labourers, then as artists. This lavishly illustrated book draws on social history, visual anthropology, as well as formal art analysis to identify how the key innovations that informed contemporary desert art were realised. Dot, Circle and Frame examines the lived experience and totemic associations of the artists to show just how a new vision of ceremony and Country was assembled. This book leads the reader to a deeper understanding of a critical juncture, as four artists claimed a pivotal space in the history of Australian art. About the Author: John Kean is a writer and curator. He was Art Advisor at Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd (1977–79); the inaugural Exhibition Coordinator at Tandanya: the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute; Exhibition Coordinator at Fremantle Arts Centre, and Producer with Museum Victoria. John is a regular visitor to Papunya and adjacent Aboriginal communities, and maintains ongoing relationships with the descendants of the founding Papunya Tula artists.