Shirley Purdie / Dreaming for the Birds

SKU: 15366

50cm x 60cm Bush Ochre on Canvas, 2011


50cm x 60cm Bush Ochre on Canvas, 2011


Artist Profile

Shirley is undoubtedly one of the hardest working, most professional contemporary ochre artists and certainly one of the most talented. Born on Mabel Downs Station c. 1948, she grew up there whilst her mother, the late Senior Artist Madigan Thomas was working alongside the stockmen. Like her mother was, Shirley is a great organiser, strong lady and well respected Law and Culture Woman amongst her Kitja people. She resides at Norton Bore Community, of which she and her husband Gordon Barney (a senior painter in his own right and former stockman) are Chairpersons.

Shirley worked when old enough at Mabel Downs, Texas Downs and Alice Downs in the station homesteads.

She then settled at Warmun and worked at the Post Office for many years. She has six children and many grandchildren – Shirley looks after not only her grandchildren but relatives’ little ones and is fastidious about the “proper” rearing of children and the teaching of youngsters both in traditional culture and modern schooling.

It is amazing that she could possibly find time to paint – but she certainly does. She has a style all of her own – her mix of ochre colours is excellent, particularly the pale blues she uses – and she doesn’t mind sharing her techniques with not only the younger artists but also established artists – she is a very generous lady. The stories of her paintings in the main derive from those Madigan has told her, and her uncle, the late Jack Britten.

Shirley has participated in many exhibitions since 1994 in every capital city in Australia, as well as in London and Germany. Her artworks are valued and included in high profile collections and Universities throughout the Country. In 2007, Shirley won the prestigious Blake Award for Religious Art with her stunning depiction of the Stations of the Cross.


• Artists of the East Kimberley Exhibition, Canberra
• Maintaining Family Tradition, Adelaide Festival Centre, S.A.
• National Aboriginal Art Award, Australian Heritage Commission, Old Parliament House, Canberra

• Savode Gallery, Brisbane, QLD

• Span Gallery, Melbourne, VIC

• Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Victoria
• Chamber of Commerce, Wuerzburg, Germany
• Karen Brown Gallery, Darwin N.T.
• Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, Perth, W.A.
• Hogarth Galleries, Paddington, Sydney, N.S.W.
• “Art of the Aborigines”, Gallery Baehr, Germany

• Anthropological Museum, Freiburg, Germany
• Gallery Australis, Adelaide, S.A.
• Ben Grady Gallery, Canberra, A.C.T.
• Bett Gallery Hobart, Tasmania
• Commonwealth Institute, London, U.K.
• “The Art of Place”, National Indigenous Heritage Art Award, Canberra A.C.T.
• “State of My Country”, Hogarth Galleries, Paddington, Sydney, N.S.W.
• Michael Carr Gallery, Sydney, N.S.W.
• Melbourne Art Fair (Artbank & Bett Gallery Hobart), VIC
• Hogarth Galleries, Paddington, N.S.W.

• “Past Modern”, Short Street, Gallery, Australia Square, Sydney, N.S.W.
• “Four Warmun Ngarliwarrin (Women)”, Artplace, Perth, W.A.

• “Aboriginal Art”, Gallery Baehr, Speyer, Germany
• Shirley Purdie & Gordon Barney, Framed Gallery, NT
• “Garmerrun: All Our Country”, Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide, SA

• University Art Museum, Adelaide, SA
• 20th National ATSIC Art Award, Darwin, NT
• Recent Works in Ochre by Warmun, Framed Gallery, Darwin, Australia
• The World Luxury Cruise Ship, Australasis (in co-operation with Thornquest Gallery, Southport)

• Die inneren und die äußeren Dinge. Germany (in co-operation with Aboriginal Art Gallery Bähr, Speyer)

• New Work from Warmun, Gadfly Gallery, Perth
• 20th Telstra (NATSIAA) Art Award, Darwin

• Warmun Art Centre Presents, Mary Place Gallery, Sydney
• What Bird Is That?, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne

• Ralph Pucci International Gallery, New York (in association with Cross Cultural Art Exchange, Darwin)
• Back To The Board, Coo-ee Gallery, Sydney
• A Warmun Selection, Palya Art, Melbourne
• Ngarrangkarni & Bible Stories, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne

• Artbank, Sydney
• Commonwealth Institute Collection, London
• Edith Cowan University Art Collection, Perth
• Harvey Wagner Collection, USA
• Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth
• Northern Territory University, Darwin

• Winner – 2007 Blake Award for Religious Art
• Winner – 2008 Needham Religious Art Prize
• 1999 East Kimberley Art Award – Special Mention

Artwork Description

This country is called Kurra Kurra, named after the Kurra Kurra (storm birds) which live in the hills (dororrl) and which sing out when a storm is approaching. The hills at the bottom of the artwork are Kurra Kurra (storm bird) Dreaming country which is why the Indigenous people call it “Dreaming For The Birds”. The area is Rhadigan Yard, Shirley’s father’s country. It lies on Bow River Station, near Warmun Community.

Shirley Purdie / Dreaming for the Birds (Sold)
Gail Walls

Amazing. .wonderful paintings…love the stories told with each..beautiful works by all..look forward each day to see what is next to come…a big thank you to all for your beautiful pieces

Alli Lou

If there was an option to, I’d give a 100 star rating

Gheorghe Taralunga – Craiova


Katherine Chandler Ferguson – Fitzroy Crossing

I’ve not been able to visit for a while but love the work here! I think I’m due a trip with the boys soon!

Greg Ambrose-Pearce – Darwin

Seamless purchase great people to deal with would love to buy more!

Sue Candy

Just exquisite work, the detail, the colour and the stories. I’m in love with Artlandish Art!

Raye Stratford

Loving how Kirstie finds brilliant artists and shares not only the artwork, but the back story of both the piece AND the artist. You can tell she absolutely loves Aboriginal art, and she has such great rapport with the artists.

Mark Carroll – London

Best place to buy genuine, quality art from. On my 10th purchase and counting.

Hayley Beaver – London

Beautiful art work….. Love it!

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