George was born ‘in the bush’ in Pintupi country in the vicinity of Kiwirrkura across the Western Australian border approximately 1947. His nickname is ‘Hairbrush’ as he has thick locks of black hair.
His father was Charlie Watiolji. His wife is Nyanupa Nangala. His mother-in-law is Nyanuma Napangarti. He came in from the desert by way of Mount Doreen and Yuendumu. In 1962 he accompanied Jeremy Long on a patrol out west. He began painting in West Camp in Papunya in early 1975 for Papunya Tula Artists, the same time as his older brother Willy Tjungarrayi, and continued painting while residing at Yai Yai, Warawa, Mt Leibig, Walungurru and now Kintore. His brother Willy Tjungurrayi and older sisters Nancy and Naata Nungurrayi are also very well-known Papunya Tula Artists.
George’s ancestral country covers the sites around Wala Wala, Kiwirrkura, Lake Mackay, Kulkuta, Karku, Ngaluwinyamana, and Kilpinya to the north-west of Kintore across the Western Australia border. He paints the Tingari stories for this region. He had 2 decades of traditional Pintupi painting then departed from traditional Western desert iconography by painting works based on optical stripes that have brought his work to prominence. His striking paintings are a contemporary variation on the distinctive fluted carving that originally decorated ceremonial shields. His art in some ways suggests abstract or optical art though his lines are all hand drawn and softer. Canvasses are often multi-layered to produce an illusion of movement and shadows beneath the surface. The underlying lines create an impression suggesting a spiritual landscape that perhaps refers to his ancestral travels. His works retain a strong connection with his ancestral dreaming stories in which the Tingari ancestors travelled vast stretches of country performing rituals and creating and shaping particular sites.
Solo exhibitions of Tjungurrayi’s work include Paintings, Utopia Art, Sydney (2016); Pulka Canvas, Utopia Art, Sydney at The Depot Gallery, Sydney (2013); Space & Place, Utopia Art, Sydney (2011); Between the Lines, Utopia Art, Sydney (2008); Paintings from Mamultjulkulnga and Kirrimalunya, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne (2003); Unforeseen 1989 to 2002, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane (2003); New Fields, Utopia Art, Sydney (2002); and George Tjungurrayi – first solo show, Utopia Art, Sydney (1997).
Selected group exhibitions include Abstraction of the World, Duddell’s x Biennale of Sydney, Duddell’s, Hong Kong (2017); Cornucopia, Utopia Art, Sydney (2016); Sydney Contemporary, Carriageworks, Sydney (2015); Sublime Point: The Landscape in Painting, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre, Gymea (2014); Volume One: MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2012); 40 Years of Papunya Tula Art, Utopia Art, Sydney (2011); Desert Country, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2010); and Western Desert Satellites, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth (2006).
Tjungurrayi’s work is held in a number of collections, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Groninger Museum, the Netherlands; Musée national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie, Paris; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Seattle Art Museum, Washington; Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, Darwin; and University of Virginia, Charlottesville.