Language:   Pitjantjatjara         
Born:          C.1959
Country:     Warakurna, Irrunytju Country

Jorna currently splits her time between Alice Springs where her family live, and Warakurna in Irrunytju Country.  By travelling from the remote communities to the town, Jorna continues to live in both the traditional Aboriginal culture of her indigenous background and the contemporary culture of modern Australia.

When Jorna is in her lands, she often goes bush with the women of the community for sacred ceremonies, passing on her cultural heritage to her two daughters.  The community of Irrunytju (Wingellina) is located in Western Australia and is situated near the tri-state border of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.  It is approximately 720km south-west of Alice Springs.  The landscape is arid, dry and very remote. The Irrunytju peoples often travel through the country of their ancestors to hunt for food, collect plants for bush medicine, and grass and seeds for basket weaving and jewellery making.

Jorna began painting in mid 1990s at Warakurna, and later joined painters at the Irrunytju Art Centre and has become a sought after artist.  Her paintings refer to the country of Irrunytju in the Western desert and the significant places, traditions, spiritual knowledge and ancestral stories bedded in the land.  Her style is that of a multi-layered abstract artist which she uses to mask the sacred cultural matters depicted in her work – the secrecy of which remain of critical importance to her.  Jorna uses a very vibrant, dramatic palette – so the canvases appear alive with linear dotted flows that describe traditional movement, culture and history.

Jorna has worked closely with her legendary artist uncle, Tommy Watson. She follows Tommy’s lead in favouring abstraction as a stylistic means to ensure secrecy of important indigenous cultural matters over the more commonly used figurative approach.   Tommy’s influence is evident -- in her fine detailing, free flowing form, clear vibrant palette as well as in her meticulous execution – but Jorna has definitely developed her own style. 

Jorna says:  “Tommy has had a big influence on me. He teaches me to be respectful in the way I paint".   Tommy Watson has described Irruntyju as: "My grandfather's country,  grandmother's country.  When they were alive, they would take me around the country, when I was a kid.  That dreamtime country. That's why we look after the country, go out whenever we can, see if the rock-holes are good".

Selected Group Exhibitions

2005     Artplace, Perth WA
2008     Harrison Galleries, Sydney  NSW
2012   Two Women Artists: Jorna Newberry & Maisie Campbell Napaltjarri, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle WA
2012     Desert Gold, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle WA
2104     Desert Song, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle WA

Back to Jorna's art.