Michael Nelson Jagamara
Michael Nelson is a Senior Warlpiri Tribesman and an Elder of the Papunya Community in central Australia. Born c. 1949 at Pikilyi, Vaughan Springs west of Yuendumu in the Northern Territory, he grew up ‘in the bush’. His father was an important tribal elder and medicine man at Yuendumu. It was therefore automatic that he would grow up with the traditional values and knowledge that now influences his paintings.
He began painting some 25 years ago in Papunya, Central Australia, in the classic dot and circle tradition of desert sand painting. Much of his work centres on the country in the Mt Singleton area and tells of traditional Dreaming stories including Yam, Possum, Kangaroo, Emu and Lightning. Michael Nelson was recognised nationally and internationally in the late 1980s through numerous public art commissions and awards including the 1984 Telstra National Aboriginal Art Award. During the late 1990s, he reinvented his approach to painting with a more expressionistic style. He continues to make the salient point that although his choice of colours, materials and appearance of works are continually being reformatted, his stories have never changed.
Michael is a ‘real Walpiri man’, a philosopher and an articulate exponent of Western Desert viewpoints on the internationally famous art movement in which he has played such a key role. Michael has gained worldwide recognition, participating in several national and international solo and group exhibitions. Today his paintings are represented in major private and public collections throughout the world, including Australia, Europe, Asia and the United States of America.
The artist’s significant contribution to Aboriginal Art was recognised in 2008, when he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of New South Wales. His works are held in numerous private, corporate and most public collections in Australia including the National Gallery of Australia and the National Museum of Australia.