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Michael Nelson Jakamarra

Michael Nelson Jakamarra

Born at Pikilyi (Vaughan Springs) c.1949 and he grew up in the bush "without clothes" in his early years. He first saw white men at Mt Doreen station and he remembers hiding in the bush in fear! Michael lived at Haasts Bluff for a time with the same family group as Long Jack Phillipus Jakamarra. Later his parents took him to Yuendumu for European education at the mission school. He left school at thirteen, after initiation, and worked buffalo shooting in 1962, driving trucks, droving cattle and in the army before coming back to Yuendumu and then to Papunya to settle and marry his current wife. He came to Papunya in 1976 and worked in the government store and observed the work of many of the older artists for many years before he began to paint regularly in 1983.

His parents were both Walpiri and his father was an important "Medicine Man" in the Yuendumu community. After his fathers death in 1976, Michael worked under the instructin of his uncle Jack Tjurpurrula. Michael paints Possum, Snake, Two Kangaroos, Flying Ant and Yam Dreamings for the area around Pikilyi. He won the National Aboriginal Art Award in 1984; in 1986 he exhibited in the Biennale of Sydney as was included in the "State of the Art" a British Art Documentary. In 1987 an 8.2m (27ft) long paiting by Michael was installed in the foyer of the Sydney Opera House. He was introduced to the Queen in 1988 at the opening of the New Parliament House as the desinger of the 196 square metre mosaic in the forecourt of the building. His 1985 painting "Five Stories" was one of the most reproduced works of Australian Art in the 1980's. It appears on the cover of the catalogue of the Asia Society's "Dreamings" exhibition which toured the USA in 1988-90. The artist travelled to New York with Billy Stockman Japaltjarri for the opening of the show. In 1989 he had his first solo exhibition in Melbourne at the Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi and participated in the BMW Art Car Project by hand painting an M3 race car. His wife Majorie Nelson Napaltjarri and sister Violet Nelson Nakamarra also paint. Majorie often paints the backgrounds of her husbands large commissions such as the Opera House and BMW projects. To see more go to Michael's image gallery.


Michael Nelson Jakamarra has exhibited his work in many exhibitions (including several solo exhibitions) and these include: Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne; Utopia Art, Sydney; Australian National Gallery, Canberra; Institute of Contempory Art, London; John Webber Gallery, New York. A more detailed list is given below(this was taken from www.aboriginal-desert-art.com.au/artists/michael_nelson_jakamarra.html)


His work is exhibited in many collections and these include: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Australian Museum, Sydney; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Parliament House Collection, Canberra; Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; Broken Hill Art Gallery; The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica USA.

Group Exhibitions:

1984, Papunya and Beyond, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs;
1984, The First National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin;
1985, The Face of the Centre: Papunya Tula Paintings
1971-1984, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
1986, The Biennale of Sydney, Sydney; 1986, Roar Studios, Melbourne;
1987, State of the art: ideas & images of the 1980's, Institute of Contemporary Art, London. 1987, The Fourth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin;
1987, Papunya Tula:1982-1983, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne;
1988, Dreamings: the art of Aboriginal Australia, The Asia Society Galleries, New York.
1989, Papunya Tula: Contemporary Paintings from Australia's Western Desert, John Weber Gallery, New York, USA.
1989, Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City;
1989, A Myriad of Dreaming: Twentieth Century Aboriginal Art, Westpac Gallery, Melbourne; Design Warehouse Sydney [through Lauraine Diggins Fine Art]
1989, Aboriginal Art: The Continuing Tradition, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra;
1989, Windows on the Dreaming, Australian National Gallery, Canberra; 1990, National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome;
1990, Balance 1990: views, visions, influences, QAG, Brisbane
1991, Aboriginal Art and Spirituality, High Court, Canberra;
1991, Flash Pictures, National Gallery of Australia;
1991, The Painted Dream: Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings from the Tim and Vivien Johnson Collection, Auckland City Art Gallery and Te Whare Taonga o Aoteroa National Art Gallery, New Zealand;
1991, Alice to Penzance, The Mall Galleries, The Mall, London;
1992, Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs; 1992, Crossroads-Towards a New Reality, Aboriginal Art from Australia, National Museums of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo;
1993, Aboriginal Art Exhibition, Kung Gubunga,Oasis Gallery, Broadbeach,Qld;
1993, Tjukurrpa, Desert Dreamings, Aboriginal Art from Central Australia (1971-1993), Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth WA;
1993/4, ARATJARA, Art of the First Australians, Touring: Kunstammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf; Hayward Gallery, London; Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark

Selected Bibliography:

Brody, A., 1985, The face of the centre: Papunya Tula paintings 1971-1984, NGV, Melbourne.
Caruana, W. (ed.), 1989, Windows on the Dreaming, Ellsyd Press, Sydney.
Caruana, W., 1993, Aboriginal Art, Thames and Hudson, London.
Chanin, E., 1990, (ed.), Contemporary Australian Painting, Craftsman House, Roseville, NSW, Australia.
Cochrane, G., 1992, The Crafts Movement in Australia: a History, New South Wales University Press, Kensington, New South Wales.
Crumlin, R., (ed.), 1991, Aboriginal Art and Spirituality, Collins Dove, North Blackburn, Victoria.
Johnson, V., 1994, Aboriginal Artists of the Western Desert - A biographical dictionary, Craftsman House, East Roseville, New South Wales.
Johnson, V. Michael Nelson Tjakamarra - book. 1993, Aratjara, Art of the First Australians: Traditional and Contemporary Works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists, exhib. cat. (conceived and designed by Bernard Luthi in collaboration with Gary Lee), Dumont, Buchverlag, Koln.
Smith, B. with Smith T., 1991, Australian Painting 1788-1990, Oxford University Press, 3rd edition,
Sutton, P. (ed.), 1988, Dreamings: the Art of Aboriginal Australia, Viking, Ringwood, Victoria.
1990, Papunya Tula, exhib. cat., Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne.
1993, Tjukurrpa Desert Dreamings, Aboriginal Art from Central Australia (1971-1993), exhib. cat., Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.

This biography was compiled in part from Aboriginal Artists of the Western Desert - A Biographical Dictionary, by Vivien Johnson.