c. 1938 – 2018
Phyllis was born at Turner River (Kartang Rija) and grew up in the beautiful Purnululu region in the East Kimberley, which is now World Heritage listed. Her mother was Kitja skin and her father Jaru (desert-way). Phyllis worked around the station, doing yard duties and assisting with the domestic animals. Whilst in Wyndham, she met her husband, Joe Thomas, a stockman. She accompanied him to Springvale, then Mabel Downs Stations. Joe worked at Bow River Station alongside the late Timmy Timms for Sam and Maggie Lilly, and much later when the Government granted the station to the Timms Family, Joe was granted an excision, and developed Rugan Community (Crocodile Hole).
Joe was instrumental in setting up a school on his Community, and Phyllis taught the children culture – carving, painting and dancing. Eventually the school was closed and the children attended the larger school at nearby Warmun Community.
Phyllis is a highly collectable First Generation Ochre Artist whose works are held in the very best Private and Corporate Collections, including Parliament House. She was an established Senior Kimberley Ochre Artist who painted and exhibited with the highest profile Ochre Artists of the East Kimberley, and with her art centre at Warmun. Her works are traditional, she was a respected Law Woman in the Region and depicted her country and the Dreaming Stories in natural ochre medium.
Phyllis passed away peacefully in late 2018. She was a strong leader, an incredible artist and a wonderful lady, who will be sorely missed by all that knew her.
– Recent Etchings 2005 – 2008, Northern Editions, Darwin. Other artists featured were Paddy Bedford (dec), Rammey Ramsey, Freddie Timms and Rusty Peters
– Jirrawun Women: Peggy Patrick, Goody Barrett and Phyllis Thomas, Grant Pirrie, Sydney
– All Around Texas – Phyllis Thomas, Churchill Cann and Charlene Carrington, Japingka Gallery, Perth
– From The Ground Up, Ochre Work From The Kimberley, Chapman Gallery, Canberra
– Greetings From Turkey Creek, Mary Place Gallery, Sydney
– Back to the Board, Japingka Gallery, Perth
– Womens Business, Sherman Galleries, Sydney
– East Kimberley Exhibition, Japingka Gallery, Perth
– New Work from Warmun, Gadfly Gallery, Perth
– A Selection of Contemporary Art, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney. Other artists featured included Emily Kngwarreye and Paddy Bedford
– Blood on the Spinifex, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne
– 17th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, Museum and Art Gallery of the NT
– Parliament House Collection, Canberra
– Art Gallery of Western Australia
– Private and corporate collections throughout Australia and Overseas