TJALA ARTISTS: At the forefront of contemporary Australian art

Jan  Murphy  Gallery


Seven  Sisters

Until  22  August  2019


Jan Murphy Gallery – installation shot

Jan Murphy Gallery is excited to present a new exhibition of paintings from the Tjala Arts centre in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

Seven Sisters will feature large scale paintings by Sylvia Ken and Tjungkara Ken, the Ken Sisters Collaborative (Tjungkara Ken, Yaritji Young, Freda Brady, Maringka Tunkin and Sandra Ken), plus an individual collaboration by Tjungkara Ken and Yaritji Young.

The Seven Sisters Story is a Tjukurpa Story (Creation Story) about the constellations of Pleiades and Orion. This is a narrative of the Pleiades constellations (the sisters) and a sinister man who followed them, within a richly evocative landscape.

Ken Sisters Collaborative, Seven Sisters – 91/19, 2019, acrylic on linen, 300.0 cm x 197.0 cm

Recognised as contemporary painters who are at the forefront of the Western Desert movement, these artists have cemented their importance in the Australian cultural landscape in recent years, with members of the group being finalists and winners in several major awards.

Most recently, Sylvia Ken was awarded the Wynne Prize 2019 and the Ken Sisters Collaborative won the Wynne Prize in 2016. Tjungkara Ken has been a finalist in the Archibald Prize (2017) and Wynne Prize (2019 and 2016).

Known for their vibrant use of colour and energetic mark making, works by Tjala artists are held in numerous public institutions including the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of NSW, National Gallery of Victoria, Artbank and the Art Gallery of South Australia.


Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken Seven Sisters – 294/19, 2019, acrylic on linen,197.0 cm x 198.0 cm

Sylvia Ken (born 1965) has created her Tjukurpa as extraordinarily vibrant and compelling paintings since 1999. This year (2019), her painting Seven Sisters won the prestigious Wynne Prize (awarded by the Art Gallery of New South Wales). This is a narrative of the Pleiades constellations (the sisters) and a sinister man who followed them, within a richly evocative landscape. Painted in reds, purples and oranges with white dots scattered over depths of colour, it depicts the rock holes, waterholes and places that the story traverses.

Ken has worked at Tjala Arts (formerly Minymaku Arts) with her family since 1999 and her depictions of the Seven Sisters story have attracted attention since she began exhibiting in 2000. She said, “I paint my family’s side of the country where the Sisters travelled through Cave Hill and Alkunyunta, all the way through to Kuli. My right to paint this part of the Dreaming is established. Tjukurpa mulapa means a really important and true story.”

Tjungkara Ken Seven Sisters – 454/18, 2018, acrylic on linen,153.0 cm x 198.0 cm

“Tjungkara Ken was born in Amata (SA) in 1969 and was one of the first young artists to begin working with Tjala Arts (in 1997). Ken said, “I do paintings about my country. That’s ngura: rockholes and the land, the hills and big creek beds. Sometimes I do stories about the Seven Sisters and about country.” She works both as a solo artist and with family, and is one of five sisters who have painted as Ken Sisters Collaborative. Their painting Seven Sisterswas awarded the Wynne Prize in 2016.

Ken and her sister Yaritji Young were also profiled at Sydney Contemporary in 2017 where they responded to paintings by Ben Quilty. Of this exchange, Young noted, “What we do share with artists outside the Lands when we have the opportunity to connect is also so very important. We share ideas about colour and movement, about scale and energy. We share our love for painting… Sometimes paintings can talk to each other just like artists talk to each other.” For Tjungkara, the project was about paint on the canvas, about looking at what Quilty was able to achieve with a palette knife and its similarity to the way she does her waka waka (dots). The painting celebrates colour and tells a story that is hers, observing the way colour may highlight, define and create depth and contrast.”

Text from Jan Murphy Gallery website



“Nganampa Art Nganana walytjanguku Business palyanu. Munula Tjukurpa kunpu kanyini –

Our Art. Our Business. Keeps our culture strong.”


When artists like us run our own business, the money goes back to our families and community. Everyone in our community shares in the success of Tjala Arts. Our younger artists are coming up, which will help Anangu keep our culture strong for the future. Frank Young, 2016
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