There are many famous and great aboriginal artists in Australia, who have made great contributions for the Australia’s social development, but this essay will only focus on the most well-known aboriginal artists in Australian- Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, who has made so many wonderful works for the world. The following essay will discuss about an adequate summary of the artist, including key works, artistic “periods”, influence and a critical understanding of the artists’ creative approach. The context of the social, political and economic and industry context in which the work was created will be discussed as well. From these discussions, I hope that people can have a better realization about Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and his culture.

Summary of Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri was born in 1932 and died in 2002. He is the most famous of the contemporary artists who lived around Papunya, in the Northern Territory’s Western Desert area (Brenda, 2007). He spent most of his lifetime in the remote desert area. Long before he was a carver of wooden sculptures for the Central Australian tourist trade and then he took up painting since he attended Papunya Tula School in the early 1970s. In early 1972, when he joined the group of ‘dot and circle’ painters, he immediately realized that he was talented in painting. In the rest of his life, he has created some of the largest and most complex paintings (Brenda, 2007). In 70’s of the last century he led the Australian Western Desert Art Movement.

There is no doubt that he has led a groundbreaking career. In addition, he was regarded by the international art world as the vanguard of Indigenous Australian artists. Most of his works were sold in high price, such as the Honey Ants Dreaming, and Possum Dreaming. Most of his works were collected in Art Gallery of New South Wales, Holmes à Court Collection, Kelton Foundation and National Gallery of Australia.

The 1980s

This part will discuss about the third period’s works of Clifford Possum in 1980s. We can see that the enlargement of ancestral tracks into primary compositional elements, seen in Possum Dreaming at Napper by 1979, became one of the hallmarks of Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri’s mature style. After this, he began to focus on a particular site or Dreaming rather than multiple Dreaming which was the characteristic of his earlier Great Map series, which was proved by Honey Ant Dreaming in 1980. In this artwork, he focused on an ant’s nest and tried to explore its underground spaces.

In addition, Clifford Possum was also good at using the sophisticated colors among the Western Desert colorists. Furthermore, in 1986, he created the work of Worm Dreaming paintings which is dramatically different from the other. By the 1980s, he sophisticated made great achievements on distinctive rhythmic evenness, which had combined uncanny precision of placement with an energetic and direct application (Morphy, 1991). The following will discuss about the context of which the work was created.

The context

There are some typical factors to affect Clifford Possum’ works such as the social, political, economic and industry context. At that time, the Australia aboriginals were managed by the colonists using the national assimilation policy (Harry, 1997). In 1937, the Australian government made a policy to assimilate the aboriginals by forcing (Edwards, 2004). The whole society was under the situation of competition for Aboriginal people in the area with cattle, for water, intensified in the late 1920s for the severe drought at that time (Harry, 1997). As a result, these issues led to retaliatory killings of aboriginal people. Additionally, the serious killings and drought led to an exodus of many groups from traditional lands, particularly the Anmatyerre from the northwestern sector of their territory (Edwards, 2004). Therefore, the economy fall be-hide since there were a number of people attached themselves to pastoral properties to get access to rations and work. The aboriginal people still lived off on the land as their ancestors did before them.

Australia aboriginal art is regarded as one of the oldest traditional art in the world, which is related to their culture. This traditional art is an important part of the aboriginal people. Almost every piece of their work indicated the important of land, which can reflect their development of the society and culture (Bardon, 1979). Australia aboriginal art appeared very early, but it was found by the “out-world” people till the 60s of last century. They have used paper and canvas only for thirty or forty decades (Bardon, 1979). Before this, the aboriginals painted on sand, human body and hunting tools, which could not be saved for a long time (Bardon, 1979). After the 60s of last century, the Australia aboriginal art has changed by using the paper and canvas to draw. At present, the Australia aboriginal art has been introduced to the whole world. Some people think these aboriginal artworks are so different from others.


After the brief introduction of the Australia aboriginal artist, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, and his period works, we can understand more about Clifford Possum from different aspects. In addition, the essay has written some information about the Clifford Possum society, politic and economic, which can help us know about Clifford Possum’s creation background, because this can make people realize more about his work. Furthermore, the art industry of Australia aboriginal was also discussed in the essay to make others know more about the Australia aboriginal art. For instance, it indicated that Australia aboriginal art is regarded as one of the oldest traditional art in the world. All of this information can help people know about Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and his works, or even the Australia aboriginal art.