Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

1932 - 2002

(Anmatyerre people) Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri is one of Australia's greatest painters. Clifford Possum had a revolutionary career and was one of the very first artists to start painting at Papunya before the arrival in 1971 of Geoffrey Bardon, a teacher to the local school who encouraged Papunya artists to transfer their stories to moveable surfaces. Clifford had no formal education and in his early years worked as a stock boy, like many young Aboriginal men at the time. He also became an accomplished wood carver. In the 1970s, Clifford lived in the Papunya community and began teaching woodcarving at the local school at the request of teachers. In 1971, Geoffrey Bardon, Papunya's art teacher, asked some of the men in the community to join a group called "The Painting Men" and create a large mural on the school wall. Clifford was one of the last men to join the group and was encouraged by his brother Tim Leura. Prior to this, all the native paintings had been represented in the sand in ceremonies. In the beginning, the community continued to function normally, but it soon drew worldwide attention to the art that was being produced. This led to the style of acrylic painting or commonly known as "dot art". At a retrospective exhibition of his work in 2004 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, he was praised as "an expert in woodcarving and began painting long before the Papunya Tula School emergency in the early 1970s. When Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri joined this group of "dot and circle" painters in early 1972, he immediately distinguished himself as one of its most talented members and created some of the largest and most complex paintings ever made.