DOB: c.1945 - 2019
Born: Haasts Bluff, NT
LANGUAGE GROUP: Pintupi
COMMUNITY: Haasts Bluff, NT
Mitjili Napurrula was a Pintupi woman born at Haasts Bluff around 1945. Her family is one of great importance in the Aboriginal community of Papunya. Her mother is Tjunkayi Napaltjarri, a well known artist who was involved in the 'Minyma Tjukurrpa Project' and consequently became one of the principal women painters at Kintore. Her brother is the late chairman of Papunya Tula Artists, Turkey Tolson, who is also renowned for his artworks which are sought by investors all over the world.
Mitjili was married to artist Long Tom Tjapanangka. Long Tom won the prestigious 1999 16th NATSIAA Telstra Art Award and also gave her the motif of the Irantji ranges Mitjili incorporated into her later paintings. Mitjili's sister is Wintjiya Napaltjarri and wife to Turkey Tolsen's father, Tupa.
Mitjili first began painting in 1993 for the Ikuntji Women's Centre. Mitjili paints the female side to her father's Dreaming, which is the story of the spear straightening ceremony as taught to her by her mother. Mitjili also paints the topography of her father's country Uwalki, with its pristine sand hills, shrubs and Watiya, which are the trees that traditionally provide wood for spears.
The most prominent theme in Mitjili's painting concerns the watiya tjuta (Acacia trees), which relate to men's business, and her recurring tree motif is based on patterns her mother used to draw in the sand. In Mitjili's paintings the tree emerges from beneath a veil of diluted paint, applied using the dot-dot technique, giving the impression of solid colour.
Other Dreamings Mitjili inherited include Wangunu or Portulaca (small black seeds ground and used to make damper), as well as Arkatjirri, a fruit similar to a sultana that is found in the bush.
A large body of her work includes vibrant reds, yellows and browns, which serve to communicate the essence of flowers, many of her works being primarily concerned with their representation. Mitjili's superb sense for spacing, patterning and colour is distinctively appealing and indicative of her playful manner.
Since Mitjili began working with Ikunti artists she developed her own strong and distinctive personal style that has gained her acclaim within Australia and internationally. Mitjili's exhibitions were regularly a sell out. Her work was included in the exhibition Spirit Country: Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco 1999 and featured in the Adelaide Biennial 2000, 'Beyond the Pale'. Her work is held in major public and private collections in Australia and overseas.
Mitjili passed away in April 2019.
- National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
- Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
- Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
- Edith Cowan University Art Collection, Perth
- Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
- Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne
- Kaplan and Levi Collection, Seattle
- Fondation Burkhardt-Felder Arts et Culture, Moitiers, Switzerland
Awards & Recognition
1999 Alice Prize (Central Australian Art Award), Alice Springs
1997 14th NATSIAA, Darwin - Finalist
1996 Heritage Award, Canberra
1995 12th NATSIAA, Darwin - Finalist
1994 Northern Territory Art Award, Alice Springs
1994 Heritage Art Award, Canberra
1993 The Australian Heritage Award, Canberra
Selected Solo Exhibitions
2008 Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2000 Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
1998 Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
1997 Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
1996 Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
Selected Group Exhibitions
2021 Country in Mind, University of the Sunshine Coast, QLD
2020 Colours of Spring, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2010 Desert Country, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
2009 A decade of Australia’s indigenous fine art 1999-2009, Salt Gallery, Queenscliff, VIC
2008 Black & White: Inspired by Landscapes, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2000 Beyond the Pale, Adelaide Festival Exhibition, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
1999 - 2000 Ikuntji Tjuta touring exhibition, Regional Galleries of NSW, QLD, SA and NT
1999 Spirit Country: Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, USA
1997 Ikuntji Tjuta, Gallerie Australis, Adelaide
1997 Ikuntji Tjuta, Alliance Francaise, Canberra
1997 Dreamings: Aboriginal Kunst uit Australie, The Netherlands
1997 Aboriginal Art, Goteborgs Konstforening, Gothenburg, Sweden
1997 The Desert Mob Art Show, Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs
1997 Ikuntji Tjuta, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney
1997 Mulch & Metaphors: The Garden in Contemporary Art, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, VIC
1996 Adelaide Fringe Festival Exhibition, Gallerie Australis, Adelalaide
1995 Works on Paper, Hogarth Gallery, Sydney
1995 Ikuntji: New Art from the Western Desert, (book launch) Framed Gallery, Darwin
1995 Paintings from Haasts Bluff, Hogarth Gallery, Sydney
1995 Mitjili Napurrula and Marlee Napurrula, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
1995 Yiribana, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
1994 Australian High Commission and Shangri-la Hotel, Singapore
1994 Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne