Who is Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula?

By Gwylym Owen

Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula (sometimes just Turkey Tolson; c. 1938 – 10 August 2001) was a Pintupi-speaking Indigenous artiste from Australia’s Western Desert region. Born near Haasts Bluff, Northern Territory, Turkey Tolson was a major figure in the Papunya Tula art movement, and the longest-serving chairman of the company formed to represent its artists.

A painter whose creative output spanned approximately three decades, controversy erupted briefly in 1999, when disputed declarations were made by the artist regarding whether some works under his signature had been painted by some female relatives. Creator of the work Straightening spears at Ilyingaungau (1990), Tolson’s paintings are held by several major Australian public galleries, including the Art Gallery of South Australia, National Gallery of Victoria and the National Museum of Australia.

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