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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 world.
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.