Thomas is brother to Walala Tjapaltjarri and Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri; both are painters of international acclaim. Thomas’ paintings are in a classical Tingari style usually reserved for body painting, ground painting and the decoration of traditional artefacts.
In was in late 1984, Thomas and his brothers Walala and Warlimpirrnga and several other members of the Pintupi Tribe walked out of the remote wilderness of the Gibson Desert in Western Australia and made contact for the first time with European society. They came in because there were no eligible wives for them. Described as 'The Lost Tribe', he and his family created international headlines. Until that day in 1984, Thomas and his family lived the traditional and nomadic life of a hunter-gatherer society. Their intimate knowledge of the land, its flora and fauna and waterholes allowed them to survive, as their ancestors had for thousands of years.
During the Tjukurrpa (Creation Era) Tingari ancestors beings gathered at a series of sites for Malliera (Initiation) Ceremonies. They traveled vast stretches of the country, performing rituals at specific sites that in turn created the diverse natural features of the environment. The Tingari men were accompanied by novices and usually followed by Tingari Women. The creation stories and rituals are venerated in the song cycles and ceremonies of today, forming part of the teachings of the post initiatory youths, whilst also providing explanations for contemporary customs.
Thomas Tjapaltjarri uses a traditional and minimal style to represent aspects of the sacred Tingari Cycle, an epic journey of Ancestors of the TJukurrpa (Creation Era). He paints aspects of the Tingari Cycle, which are associated with the artist’s, many sacred sites. These locations are of significant rockholes, sandhills, sacred mountains and water soakages in the Gibson Desert.