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Desert Art in Concrete Jungle


The following article was published in the Alternative Media Groups Sydney City Hub Newspaper on June 30, 2008

By Reuben Brand

Jorna Newberry, the niece of famous Indigenous artist Tommy Watson, is to showcase Tjukurpa, her first solo exhibition at Harrison Galleries in Paddington.

Newberry, born in 1959 in Angus Downs NT, is an Irrunytju artist who divides her time between family life in Alice Springs and her traditional cultural land in Warakurna and Irrunytju.

She began painting in the mid 1990s at Warakurna, but later moved to Irrunytju where she joined the local arts centre and started working closely alongside her uncle Tommy Watson. She studied under Watson and learned his stylised mode of abstraction that kept the secrets of important cultural matters hidden.

“Tommy has had a big influence on me. He teaches me to be respectful in the way I paint,” said Newberry.

Regularly going bush with the women of her community, Newberry learns the sacred ceremonies of her ancestors in the hope she can pass on the knowledge to her own daughters one day. She takes her Dreaming stories from her family’s country and keeps them alive through her artwork.

Tjukurpa (Wind Dreaming) is a story of her mother’s country at Utantja, a large stretch of sacred land where people go for ceremonial rites.

“The wind ceremony forms winds, creates air to cool the lands,” said Newberry, explaining that the cooler the land gets the easier it is for hunting.

Newberry uses a very vibrant and dramatic palette in her artworks; the canvases are alive with linear dotted flows that describe movement, culture and history.

Olga Harrison, Director of Harrison Galleries said she was excited to be showing the gallery’s first solo exhibition of an Aboriginal artist, one she believes will attract a considerable interest.

“Jorna is a very formidable emerging talent from within the ranks of the desert artists of Irrunytju. She has a wonderful palette and paints beautifully,” said Harrison.

Jorna Newberry’s Tjukurpa exhibition will be on show from July 1-17 at Harrison Galleries, 294 Glemore Road, Paddington.

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