A proud family man from the Anmatyerre people in Central Australia,
Billy was one of the original stockmen and founders of the Papunya
community in the Central Desert. His role in this community varied from
a cook to helping the Pintupi people settle in to community life, then
as one of the founders of the Aboriginal art movement in 1971.
Orphaned as an infant as a result of the Coniston massacre in 1928, Billy was raised by his aunt, Clifford Possum’s mother.
“All the people were running. I was a little
one - in a coolamon. My mother put me under a bush. My father had gone
hunting - for rabbit and goanna. They killed my mother. I was grown up
by her sister...”
In 1971 Geoffrey Bardon a white school teacher
assigned to the Papunya School began a project of painting a mural
using the Aboriginal colours and traditional iconography. Along with
five other artists, Billy Stockman took over the project which became
the first piece of Central Desert Art to be exhibited. This painting
represented the "Honey Ant Dreaming".
These artists held vitally important tribal
positions and were instrumental in the instruction of young Aboriginal
men. Instead of imposing European notions of perspective on their
paintings, the men used the existing system of desert culture symbols
to depict their dreamings and their relationship with the land. This
was an experiment which had staggering results. This genesis of the
contemporary art movement empowered a renewed sense of pride and
cultural identity among the Aboriginal people of the region.
Billy Stockman soon emerged as one of the most
prolific and important artists of this time. His work, sprung from
the world's oldest continuous culture, still stands alone, and its very
essence is one of intrinsic spirituality.
The powerful and heroic dreaming symbols of
his paintings are charged with authority and religious knowledge. The
ebullient texture of his work is anchored by a metaphysical core and a
deep affinity with the land.
As a founder of the Contemporary Art Movement
and as a senior custodian of his land and Dreaming stories, Billy has
been active in communicating his traditional beliefs to the outside
Billys' work has been exhibited extensively in
Australia and overseas. Exhibitions include: 1978 Travelling
Exhibitions, Indonesia; 1980 Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern
Territory, Darwin; 1988 ’Yuendumu and Beyond’, Melbourne; In 1988 he
was involved with the opening of and exhibited in ‘Dreamings: Art of
Aboriginal Australia', in New York City, Los Angeles, London, Paris,
Frankfurt, Basel, Zurich, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the 'All
Black Festival' in South Africa. 1991 Lowe Art Museum, University of
Miami, USA; 1993 Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; 1999 Flinders
Art Museum Flinders University, Adelaide.
During the 1988 touring exhibition ‘Dreamings:
Art of Aboriginal Australia,’ Billy was commissioned to make sand
paintings at the Asia Society Gallery, New York. In 2002 a book
detailing the life of Billy Stockman ‘The Tjulkurra’ was published,
written by Janusz Kreczmanski and Margo Stanislawska-Birnberg.
Billy’s work is held in many public and
private collections: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Art
Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, University
of WA Anthropology Museum, Artbank Sydney, Jinta Desert Art Gallery
Sydney, Victorian Arts Centre, Aboriginal Art Galleries of Australia
Melbourne, Aboriginal Desert Art Gallery Alice Springs, Christensen
Collection, held at the Museum of Victoria. Donald Kahn collection,
Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Museum and Art Gallery of the
Northern Territory, The Holmes a Court Collection, and The Kelton
Foundation Santa Monica U.S.A, Peter Stuyvesant, Victorian Art
Centre, Araluen Arts Centre, Campbelltown City Council in Sydney,
Wollongong City Council.
Known as one of Australia's most exceptional
artists, Billy Stockman Japaltjarri, through his paintings is able to
promote Aboriginal culture throughout the world, helping to develop the
resurgence of the Dreaming as well as a healthy economic base for the
Aboriginal communities. It is important that the spirit of Jukurrpa is
revived to aid in the healing of the entire planet. Focusing on the
spiritual content of Aboriginal society, Billy is able to incorporate
this strong foundation with a modern definition for all to understand
and benefit from.