Where Scherstjanoi pursues something approaching a private language, Ronnie Tjampitjinpa’s paintings enact congruent explorations of what a line might do in the longer shadow of a song. Encryption is inseparable from the realization of a piece like Tingari Cycle, but Tjampitjinpa’s method is predicated on an interdependence between personal reverie and intergenerational memory. 

While information about the Tingari is limited by design, what appears in the swerves of luminescent ochre on the canvas is more about time than it is about capture. 

There is the time it takes to trace the movement of the line as it extends back and forth or tacks toward the corners of each concentric square.

This time is recursive and mesmeric, like the bright punctuation of beginnings that the brush repeats inside the hum of each cascading stack.

Fig. 11. Tjampitjinpa, Ronnie, Tingari Cycle, 2000, Acrylic on Canvas, 191 x 94, Gift of William G. Buss and Barbara M. Buss

Beneath this time of hand, eye, and nervous system, there is a time of depiction which is pleated and mythic.

Joined into a larger system of figures and practices known only to initiates, they affirm the Tingari as sacred ancestors to the Pintubi people by way of ceremonies, signs, and song cycles.

Retaining this dimension of esoteric knowledge for themselves has allowed Pintubi artists like Tjampitjinpa to sell work on portable surfaces since the 1970s without compromising the patterns and codes that make it available and awake to relations beyond the marketplace. This strategic opacity is not just protective but enabling, as it allows a work to speak in distinct registers for multiple audiences simultaneously. These practices of painting and song continue to serve as sites for Indigenous pedagogy. Because Australia, like the United States, has failed to acknowledge the depth of how a past rooted in settler colonialism underwrites its present, these interventions become relay points of survival.

Fig. 12. Tjampitjinpa composing, image courtesy of the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art