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Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Jupiter Well



Helicopter Tjungurrayi


01 Jul 1947 -

Language group

Kukatja, Western Desert region


Helicopter Tjungarrayi is best known as a painter working for Warlayirti Artists at Wirrimanu (Balgo). In recent years he has produced prints in association with Northern Editions print workshop at the Northern Territory University. In this print the strikingly captivating Balgo colour-fields are translated into the print medium.

Documentation from Warlayirti Artists states that this screenprint depicts Helicopter Tjungarrayi's traditional country which is located far to the south of Balgo in the Great Sandy desert near Jupiter Well. It was in this country that Helicopter was born and travelled and hunted as a young man with his family. The lines in this print represent the tali, or sand dunes, which dominate the landscape.

This print exemplifies the expressive Balgo style and daring use of colour that has earned this remote art community an international reputation. Although the Balgo community was some ten years behind the Papunya artists in starting up their art centre, they have quickly established themselves as a formidable presence in Australian art. While their works relate to their fellow Western Desert artists in Kintore and Kiwirrkura, Balgo artists paint with less restraint, demonstrating an immediacy and spontaneity. The preferred palette of rich reds, oranges and yellows evokes the dramatic landscape around Balgo.

Prints from Balgo are part of the move into new media for this community. The paintings style of Balgo artists translates very successfully to this medium, allowing as it does for the simulation of great depth and intense colour. Furthermore, these works captures the essence of each artist's characteristic style.

Printmaking is an increasing area of art practice for remote area communities and is particularly accessible to older, more senior artists. They allow a greater freedom of expression for less mobile artists and are less strenuous. As a result, these prints often carry the traditional authority of a community and their creation plays a valuable role in passing on cultural information to younger generations of artists.

© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2003




Media category


Materials used

four-colour screenprint, red, orange, yellow and white inks on white wove paper




68.0 x 49.5 cm image (irreg.); 75.9 x 55.7 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed l.r. corner, pencil "X". Not dated.


Mollie Gowing Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Aboriginal Art 2003


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Helicopter Tjungurrayi

Works in the collection



Where the work was made
Balgo Hills

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history