Tiger Yaltangki: Controlled Chaos

Tiger Yaltangki’s moshpit-like canvases are explosive fusions of traditional and contemporary culture. With a slew of recent acquisitions, national shows and a forthcoming solo exhibition in Melbourne, this is an artist on the brink of big things.

Words: Nic Brown

TIGER YALTANGKI IS making waves in the national art scene with his hallucinatory paintings that position him as a master of colour, comedy and controlled chaos. Hailing from Indulkana, a community on the An-angu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in the north-west of South Australia, the artist operates out of the trailblazing Iwantja Arts studio collective, where he has been gearing up for his solo show with Melbourne’s Alcaston Gallery, aptly titled Tiger Yaltangki: Rock ‘n’ Roll.

In his work, the artist references rock music and science fiction whilst paying homage to his An-angu culture and lived experience. His creatures are created from an amalgam of family and friends, self-portrait, Mamu (Spirit Beings), television characters from Dr Who and The Mighty Boosh, as well as rock and roll stars from iconic bands such as AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. The characters seem to slam dance across the moshpit-like canvas, against a background of Ngura (Country), depicted in a pastel desert palette of pinks, oranges and yellows.

Yaltangki’s interest in paint grew out of his quirky daily ritual of painting his Akubra hat and boots, using acrylics from Iwantja Arts. In 2007, he was encouraged to experiment on canvas and was mentored by Indulkana cultural leaders Alec Baker and Peter Mungkuri, two of Iwantja’s established painters and long-term directors. Yaltangki produced sophisticated paintings saturated with colour, initially focused on the Apu Hills and stylistically influenced by Baker; the paintings depicted trees, hills and waterholes against a patchwork backdrop of dots. His compositions evolved to include features of the Indulkana community with a focus on its buildings, trucks and water tanks.

By 2013 a personal narrative emerged, with the artist referencing memories and family members. In 2015, Yaltangki “really came into his own,” says Iwantja Arts manager Beth Conway, when he began to create works grounded in “imagination blended with reality”, developing his visually explosive paintings that present a mash-up of An-angu and pop culture.

An early bird to the studio, Yaltangki begins his mornings seeking inspiration from comics and books. This includes Noel Fielding’s The Mighty Book of Boosh (2008), and particularly the raw and wild drawings by Dave Brown (who plays Bollo the gorilla in the television series – Yaltangki’s favourite character). When beginning a new painting, Yaltangki draws the initial composition and then blocks in colour and reworks with more drawing, “going in and out of layers”, comments Conway. He paints while listening to Black Sabbath or Guns N’ Roses, humming or singing in Yankunytjatjara or English, painting across multiple canvases at a time, working on the floor, a table or a wall, depending on the requirements for each work.

Yaltangki has maintained a regular exhibition schedule since 2010. His debut solo exhibition, Tiger Yaltangki: the first solo exhibition, was presented by Perth’s Mossenson Galleries in 2011. In the same year, forward-looking higher education organisations including Perth’s Berndt Museum and the University of Western Sydney began acquiring Yaltangki’s paintings. In 2012, Newcastle University followed suit. Each year since 2013, the artist has made the shortlist for The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAAs).

2015 was a pivotal time for Yaltangki’s career. His work was selected for the Art Gallery of South Australia’s blockbuster visual arts event TARNANTHI and in the following year he featured in the country’s longest-standing survey of contemporary Australian art, the 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Magic Object, at the same institution. He was then picked up by the eastern states and featured in the inaugural The National: New Australian Art (2017), and his representation with Alcaston Gallery was announced.

A slew of acquisitions accompanied this increased national attention, with work collected by Artbank, Museums and Galleries of the Northern Territory, Parliament House and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. With his recent accomplishment as finalist for the prestigious Archibald Prize, and forthcoming group show at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne, A lightness of spirit is the measure of happiness, Yaltangki is certainly an artist on the rise.

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 85, JUL–SEPT 2018. 

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