Ngaanyatjarra language. Born c.1943. Died 2O13.
Tommy Mitchell’s painting career was short but bright. From the moment he began painting in 2OO5, his skill as a colorist was evident to all, catapulting him to instant acclaim. From the onset, his paintings revealed a remarkable sophistication, confidence and grace. Born around 1943 near Papulankutja in the Gibson Desert, Mitchell’s early style was influenced by his family members Arthur Tjatitjarra Robertson and Tjunka Lewis. Mitchell quickly found his own voice, drawing upon his intimate experience of Ngaanyatjarra country, which he traversed on foot as a child. These recollections are transformed into glowing fields of overlapping dots, which Mitchell alternately groups into patchwork grids or cascading fountainesques. An important lawman, Mitchell was a central figure at the Warakurna Art Centre. As the art of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands rose to prominence, Mitchell was quickly recognized as one of the region’s most unique talents. His work was displayed prominently in the exhibitions Desert Country (Art Gallery of South Australia, 2O1O) Living Water: Art of the Far Western Desert (National Gallery of Victoria, 2O11), Purnu, Tjanpi, Canvas: Art of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands (Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia in 2O12) and Ancestral Modern (Seattle Art Museum, 2O12). In 2OO9, he was selected as a finalist in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. His works are held in many major collections, including the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of South Australia.