Helicopter Joe Tjungurrayi
30 x 30 cm
Helicopter has painted some of his country south of Balgo, in the Great Sandy Desert.
This country is named Wangkartu after the tjurrnu (soakwater) featured in the centre of the
painting. Wangkartu is an inta (living water) so always contains drinking water. The
parallel lines in the painting represent the tali (sandhills) that dominate the country. This is
the country where Helicopter was born.
Helicopter Joe Tjungarrayi (Tjungarayi) was born in 1947 at a Ninmi in the Great Sandy
Desert. Like many Balgo artists, his language group is Kukatja. From a young age,
Helicopter learnt about survival and spiritual aspects of his country. He is a noted 'maparn'
(tradtional healer) and many people travel vast distances for his healing counsel. During
the mission days when he worked odd jobs as a labourer, Helicopter travelled widely
throughout the region. The name 'helicopter' was given after an accident in the '60s which
necessitated his transport to hospital in a flying doctor helicopter, the first seen in the area.
In the early '90s, Helicopter painted alongside his wife, the late Lucy Yukenbarri, but since
1995 he has forged his own painting career, achieving his first solo exhibition in '99 at
Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne. He has participated in numerous Balgo group shows and is
represented in collections at the Art Gallery of NSW, the Laverty Collection, National
Gallery of Victoria and Gantner Myer Collection. He is one of Balgo's leading male artists,
with a strong national and international following for his paintings and prints.