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Artist BiographiesWarmun Artists of the East Kimberley


Below are biographical notes about Aboriginal artists from the Warmun (Turkey Creek) community in the East Kimberley. These Warmun artists are all represented by paintings or prints on our Web site:

Goody Barrett

Goody Barrett is a senior Gija woman who was born around 1930 on Lissadell Station, north of Turkey Creek in the East Kimberley. Her Gija name is Lilwayi and her skin name is Nyawurru. She grew up on the station and became a station worker, riding horses, milking cows and goats and other work. In the last thirty years the country on Lissadell Station has undergone massive changes through flooding of the Ord River to form Lake Argyle, and the destruction of a women's dreaming site at the Argyle diamond mine. Most of Goody Barrett's pictures show dreamings and places where she walked in the bush on Lissadell when she was a child. Because of the impact of the mine on the country, she often paints the Dreamings associated with the area.

Shirley Bray

Shirley was born on Alice Downs Station, south of Warmun and north of Halls Creek. She went to school at Beagle Bay, north of Broome, and spent a good deal of her childhood away from her family. When she finished school, Shirley went to work on the stations around Warmun, mustering and as a camp cook. When she came back to Warmun to live, she taught Gija language at the Warmun School. Shirley has worked as a translator of Gija for many years. Like many Warmun artists, Shirley began painting for educational purposes at the school. She has painted consistently since the Warmun Art Centre started operation in September 1998.

Betty Carrington

Betty was born in 1944 on Texas Downs Station in the east Kimberley but grew up with her family at the old Turkey Creek Post Office (now the Warmun Art Centre) and Police Station. Betty's father was a police tracker and her family lived there until the police station closed, when they moved back to Texas Downs. She worked on Texas Downs as a housekeeper and did everything from chopping wood, clearing rocks from roads, cooking, scrubbing floors, to going out bush for a "killer" (bullock to kill) and butchering the beasts. When the station closed she moved to Turkey Creek in the early 1980s. Betty has traveled extensively in Australia representing Kimberley and Gija people in dance and cultural festivals. She started painting in 1998 when Warmun Art Centre commenced operation.

Charlene Carrington

Charlene has described her life in the following words: "I have lived most of my life in Warmun Community. At High School I was inspired to start painting by Hector Jandany, my grandfather, and old woman McKenzie who both came to Warmun School to teach the children Ngarrangkarni (Dreaming) stories and how to paint in the "traditional" way.

I get the stories for my paintings from my Grandmother. She knows a lot of old stories and she shares them with me. I paint in natural ochre, which she prepares, crushes and mixes and applies to canvas.

It gets real hot at Warmun and it affects what you paint about. It takes away the colour and doesn't look that good. For painting this place it is better in the wet season. There are a lot of colours - it just brightens up everything here. You see different colours!"

David Cox

David is aged around 30, and learnt painting from his father, who painted landscapes in water colour, influenced by the Hermannsburg artists. His country is west of Warmun towards Fitzroy Crossing, but still in Gija-speaking territory. When he moved to Warmun, he was further taught about painting and the use of ochres in Warmun style by Churchill Cann (Churchill's ex-wife is Sadie Carrington, and daughter is Charlene Carrington).

David has developed a similar but distinct style of his own, which tends to be more abstract and aerial than much other Warmun work and with a "washed" effect in the ochre. He experiments regularly, working closely with the other leading artists of Warmun, and is a committed artist pushing the boundaries of his technique. He has been painting for about 18 months, but is already regarded as one of the younger Warmun artists with great potential.

Mabel Juli

Mabel Juli is a respected elder in Warmun. She was born in 1933 at Five Mile, near Moola Bulla Station in the east Kimberley and was taken as a baby to Springvale station, her mother's country. She started work on the station as a little girl, and as a young woman moved to Bedford Downs and Bow River stations for work.
Mabel Juli

She started painting in the 1980s at the same time as other well known Warmun artists Queenie McKenzie and Madigan Thomas. The women watched Rover Thomas painting and one day he said to them "you try yourself - you might make good painting yourself". Mabel says "I started thinking about my country, I give it a try".

She is a committed and innovative artist who has been short-listed for a number of important awards, including the Australian Heritage Commission Art Award in 1994. She paints the dreaming stories of her country Darrajayn, which is covered largely by Springvale Station, and her subjects and themes mainly concern women.

Patrick Mung Mung

Patrick is a senior artist and elder at Warmun. Patrick was born at Spring Creek and, like his artist father George Mung Mung, worked as a stockman for many years on Texas Downs Station and other nearby stations in the East Kimberley.

Patrick knows this country intimately. He says "my country, that makes me strong. It takes me back to where I started; the country that I bin born and the country for my mother and father. I can walk all of this country and I'll never get lost. I know every short cut all the way back to Texas, all the way back to Yunurrl".'

Patrick started painting in 1991, shortly before his father passed away. After his father's death, Patrick accompanied his father's carving Mary of Warmun to Canberra for the exhibition 'Aboriginal Art and Spirituality' at the High Court of Australia. This occasion marked the beginning of a journey for Patrick which was to see him take on his father's role of senior artist, law and culture man.

Patrick's work work is influenced by other well known artists, including his father, Rover Thomas and Paddy Jaminji Through his images, Patrick's knowledge of his country and his cultural memory of family, land and work are powerfully related. He was instrumental in establishing the first community-owned art centre at Warmun in 1998. He is currently chairperson of the Warmun Art Centre Committee.

Nancy Nodea

Nancy was born around 1949 at Buffalo Hole, in the East Kimberley, on Texas Downs cattle station. She grew up with members of her community such as Queenie McKenzie, Hector Jandanay and George Mung Mung, who ultimately became famous as artists in ochre. Afflicted with leprosy from a relatively young age, she spent many years at the leprosarium near Derby, where, among other things she took lessons in the violin and piano.

Nancy moved to the Warmun Community some years ago where she lives today with her children and grandchildren. She has a brother, Churchill Cann who is an accomplished artist, and although she was always interested in art, did not being painting until 1996, when she attended the Art Centre at Warmun. Here she was reunited with Queenie, Hector and also Rover Thomas, Freddie Timms and Jack Britten. From these leading artists she learnt her skills in ochre painting. She has specialised in meticulous, minimal representations of her country on Texas Downs.

Madigan Thomas

Madigan was born around 1927 at Violet Valley Station, south of Warmun. As a child she worked on the station, in the garden and doing domestic duties in the station house. In the 1940s, when Violet Valley Station closed she moved with her family to Mabel Downs Station where her father and brothers worked as stockmen. As she grew older Madigan joined the men mustering cattle.
Madigan Thomas

When she did not have to work she spent a lot of time in the bush with the old people, learning the old "bush ways". She left Mabel Downs to move to Wyndham while her children went to school there, and when her children were grown up she moved to Warmun Community.

Madigan was inspired to paint by watching Rover Thomas and other Warmun artists. She began painting in the mid 1980s, along with well known artist Queenie McKenzie and other Warmun women. She is one of the elders of Warmun Community and is a strong law and culture woman.

She has her own distinctive style with landforms outlined in silhouette using fine dots. She was a finalist in the 1994 National Aboriginal Art Award and has exhibited in a number of gallery shows since.

Phyllis Thomas

Phyllis was born in 1933 at Turner River in the east Kimberley. She worked on a number of cattle stations in the region before moving to Warmun to live. She worked as a language and cultural teacher in the local school and art centre before becoming an artist.

Phyllis's stories are often associated with the Ngarrangkarni (the Dreamtime) and the Bungle Bungles (Purnululu). A characteristic feature of many of her paintings is the representation of boab trees that grow at Crocodile Hole, located south of Warmun. Her entry in the 17th National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award (Telstra Award) in 2000 was highly commended.

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