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Shirley Purdie / Medicine Water – Norton Bore (10461)

30cm x 40cm Bush Ochre on Canvas, 2006

SKU: 10461


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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

In this part of Norton Bore, in the Dreamtime the Eagle dropped Kangaroo fat into the river. That was good medicine for babies – we find it in the river and the waterholes. That mixture of Kangaroo fat and water helps babies with sores on their skin. My father (Sandy Thomas) – that’s his country and he told me that old Kartiya (whiteman) Paddy Rhatigan, when he was a little baby, was very sick and our people took him to this place and bathed him in the water and he got well again.

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