Careers In Art: Jungala Kriss

Term: 3 Year: 2008

Cultural Artist

Jungala sees himself as an Indigenous Australian “cultural artist”. Owner of Jungala Enterprises, a business that embraces both the art and tourism sectors, Jungala paints, creates t-shirts and postcards, and runs cultural educational workshops and tours.

At what age did you decide to make a career from visual arts?
Since I was a kid I have been drawing, but I didn’t start painting until I was in my 30s. It is now a hobby but when I need money I paint a canvas and sell it.

Do you come from a creative family?
Yes my family members include Clifford Possum, Billy Stockman, Michael Nelson, Kaapa Tjampitjimpa, Paddy Carrol Tjungurrayi. The family relationships in Aboriginal culture are quite complex. Relationship is very important in the culture as it tells the person what responsibilities to others in his community are. It tells you where you fit into the social structure and certain obligations required by certain people to you or by you.

What is a day in the life of Jungala Kriss like?
I like to get up early in the morning to appreciate the start of the day, the crispness and fresh air of a winter morning. As Director of my company I might be organising a cultural tour of the West MacDonald Ranges or travelling overseas, getting ready to catch a plane. I might be preparing a canvas to paint on, which would then mean I would need to work out the size of the painting, work out the colour scheme, and start to paint one of the traditional stories that has been handed down to me. My art is more contemporary to make it more of my own. People now recognise my style.

What is your favourite medium to work with?
This varies, Matisse or Atelier acrylic paint on anything from canvas to bikes, cars etc. I have even tried Oil Sticks which a Danish artist introduced to me.

What effect has the computer age had on your work?
It has allowed me to manipulate my own artwork to turn it into commercial projects and merchandise. It also means I can send images of my work to overseas buyers.

What are some of the negative aspects of your job?
People who do not have an understanding or appreciation of the culture and art form, this makes it difficult for artists like me to survive solely on their artwork.

What is something you would love to do that you haven’t already done?
Design a new uniform and all commercial aspects for QANTAS. Mainly because QANTAS began as a Queensland and Northern Territory company. Using Australian products would be a great way to project my “artism” to the world.

How would you describe your first work sold?
I was very nervous because I was up against a lot of recognised Indigenous artists, but once I sold my first painting I realised that I could do it and had actually achieved something. The first painting I sold is now my company logo.

Where do you get most of your inspiration?
The stories are there, they belong to me, but the colours I choose to paint them in depend on the season. How I see the colour of the landscape at the time of the painting.

What fellow artist has most influenced you?
Teddy Egan Jungala

What’s your favourite publication to date?
Breasts, Bodies, Canvas. Central Desert art as experience JENNIFER BIDDLE. Anything inspirational giving a true perspective of the culture, so people can understand it better.

What is your favourite piece of clothing in your wardrobe?
Hand knitted beanie with a kangaroo on the front.

Who would you most like to sit next to on a flight to Europe?
Reece Witherspoon

If you were speaking to a secondary school student who was showing interest in following in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?
Finish your schooling, education is so important but you don’t realise until you are an adult just how important it is. You need something to fall back on or start with and art will take its own course.

Visit the website for more information about Jungala Kriss