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MODERN & CONTEMPORARY ART

Elizabeth Nyumi Nungurrayi 1947

Elizabeth Nyumi Nungurrayi was born in the bush near Jupiter Well. Nyumi's mother belonged to the country of Nynmi near Kiwirrkurra on the Pintupi side. Her father was from Alyarra in the region of the Ngaanyatjarra people.

When Nyumi was only a very young child her mother died at Kanari soakwater close to Jupiter Well. As a young girl, Nyumi lived with her family group in their country. As a teenager she walked along the Canning Stock Route into the old mission with her father and family group. There she was given clothes and taken to Billiluna Station to be trained as a domestic worker and to work for the wives of the station managers around the region.

Nyumi commenced painting in 1987 and emerged as a leading artist in the late 1990s. She is married to the artist Palmer Gordon and has four daughters, three of whom are still living and beginning to paint with strong encouragement from Nyumi.

Her elder brothers Brandy Tjungurrayi and Patrick Olodoodi are both senior lawmen and recognised artists. Nyumi is a very strong culture woman and dancer and an enthusiastic teacher of culture to children, ensuring the traditional dances and songs are kept alive.

Nyumi's paintings are mainly concerned with the abundant bush food in the country belonging to her family. Initially, she worked with a thick brush, covering the canvas with fluent lines in tones of yellow, green and red. She has now developed a strong personal style of thick impasto dotting, to build up fields of texture heavily laden with white, in which motifs of camp sites, coolamons, digging sticks and bush tucker stand out.

Nyumi held her first solo exhibition Parwalla at Raft Artspace in 2001. A closely associated painting to Parwalla, 2001, by the same title, painted in the same year, was selected for the 2004 Biennale of Sydney. Together with two other works by Nyumi, it was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of a large international group exhibition. In the accompanying catalogue essay, Hetti Perkins defines this as ‘the most resolved series of paintings in her ongoing preoccupation with the country of her childhood’.1 Indeed, this work exemplifies the physical and spiritual connection of the artist to her country, in a symbiotic relationship that informs the entirety of Nyumi’s artistic output. Parwalla is the country where Nyumi lived as a child with her mother, before losing her in a tragic accident. After this, Nyumi led a nomadic existence with her father and family group, ultimately settling in the Wirrimanu community at Balgo, where she commenced painting in 1987 for the Warlayirti Artists cooperative.


The symbols depicted in Nyumi’s works are inherently feminine. She represents campsites, bush tucker, native flora and fauna and women’s food-gathering implements. These themes are rendered in a delicate, jewel-like style and soft palette of pastel yellows, oranges, pinks and creams, removed from the vigorous, painterly style and bright colours idiosyncratic to Balgo. Perkins highlights the influence of Nyumi’s matrilineal Pintupi heritage, and associates her with that extraordinary generation of desert women artists, beginning in the 1980s with Emily Kame Kngwarreye, followed by Pintupi artists at Kintore and Kiwirrkurra and spectacularly reinvented by the women artists at Warlayirti.


SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

2018 EXPO Chicago, SmithDavidson Gallery, Chicago, USA
2018 'Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection', Blanton Museum - University of Texas, Austin, USA
2014 Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award, Fremantle, Australia
2013 'Desert Mob', Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
2006 Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
2006 'Desert Mob', Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
2004 Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
2004 29th Annual Shell Fremantle Print Award, Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle, Australia
2004 21th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
2004 'Over the Top', Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle, Australia
2003 'Desert Mob', Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
2003 20th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
2003 Elizabeth Nyumi, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Australia
2002 Elizabeth Nyumi, Aboriginal and Pacific Art Gallery, Sydney, Australia
2002 30th Alive Prize, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
2002 'Desert Mob', Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
2001 'Aborigena Arte, Australiana Contemporuneu', Torino, Palazzo Bricherasio, Italy
2001 'Desert Mob', Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
2001 18th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
2001 Balgo Works, Städtische Gallery, Wolfsburg, Germany
2000 17th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
2000 5th National Indigenous Heritage Art Award, Art of Place, Old, Parliament House, Canberra, Australia
2000 Aboriginal Art, Galerie Baehr, Leverkusen, Germany
2000 Aboriginal Art, Galerie Baehr, Dormagen, Germany
1999 16th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
1998 15th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
1997 14th Telstra NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
1997 'Dreamings: Aboriginal kunst uit Australie', Eusebius, Arnhem, The Netherlands



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