Tiger Palpatja

Tiger was born around 1920 (although the exact year is not known). He was born in the bush, at Piltati
Rockhole, which is close to what is now Nyapari in North-West South Australia. Tiger’s family were
Pitjantjatjara, and lived a traditional, nomadic life in the bushland around Piltati. When he was a teenager,
Tiger's family settled at Ernabella, which at the time was a Presbyterian mission and a sheep station. He
grew up on the mission, and learned to speak English during school and eventually got married to a
woman named Nyalapanytja where they lived in Ernabella for many years. Tiger worked on the station,
shearing sheep and building fences.
Tiger started painting in September 2004, less than eight years before his death. He had never painted
before this, and was better known for woodworking, especially making spears. Although he only began
painting in his final years, his work quickly became highly recognised by critics and sought after.
In 2005, Tiger was a finalist for the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. He became a
finalist in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011, but never won. He was also a finalist in the Western Australian
Indigenous Art Awards in 2009, and again in 2011. Tiger mainly painted for Tjala Arts, but from 2009 he
also began working for Tjungu Palya in nearby Nyapaṟi.
Tiger's painted sacred stories from his Dreaming mostly represent his birthplace, Piltati. This place being
associated with a creation story involving two sisters and their husbands, who change themselves into
Wanampi, a giant water snake. According to Tiger's Dreaming, the Wanampi are his
family's ancestors who created the country around Piltati. The snake’s form is recurring in many of his
works, usually painted in several different colours. His works are known for their bright colours, in contrast
to other artists of the Western Desert who use a more traditional, natural, ochre colour palette. Tiger’s
depiction of his dreaming with the vibrant and distinct palette he employs creates a new language and
connects past with present.
Tiger died on 16 April 2012, over the age of 90. While he was alive, his paintings were exhibited in
several major cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and Perth. His works are now
permanently held in galleries in most of these cities, namely the National Gallery of Australia and the Art
Gallery of Australia. He also has had work exhibited overseas in the United States and South-East Asia.
He also had work exhibited overseas: at the University of Virginia in 2006, and in Singapore in 2008. His
paintings are held in the National Gallery of Victoria, the National Gallery of Australia, the Australian
National University, Charles Darwin University, Flinders University, and the Art Gallery of New South
Wales.