Debutantes: Doris Bush Nungurrayi - Art Collector

Issue 59, January - March 2012

This profile appeared in the Debutantes feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2012.

Born: c1942
First commercial gallery solo exhibition: April 2012, Damien Minton Gallery, Sydney

Doris Bush Nungurrayi’s paintings are rhythmic webs of distinctive smooth, curved lines, recalling the marks of women’s ceremonial body painting. It’s a different look to the layered, variegated character of most Papunya men’s painting which usually has a stronger connection to ground designs.

Nungurrayi now paints with Papunya Tjupi Arts. This year she will have her first commercial gallery solo exhibition at Damien Minton Gallery in Sydney. To date her work has been included in a substantial number of group exhibitions in dealer galleries in Australia and internationally and was included in the 2009 and 2011 Desert Mob exhibitions at the Araluen Arts Centre.

Her experiences are only one generation away from the pre-contact life. She grew up at Haasts Bluff where she married George Bush Tjangala, one of the Papunya Tula Artists’s original shareholders. They lived for a while on an outstation further west toward the Western Australian and Northern Territory border, then moved between Papunya and Alice Springs, where Tjangala sold his paintings. After his death in 1997 Nungurrayi spent increasing amounts of time at Papunya. She began painting after Papunya Tjupi Arts was established in 2007.

For the first two and a half years she only painted about Nyunmanu, a dingo dreaming site to the south east of Kintore. More recently Nungurrayi has established special significance for her work by painting about Tjurrpinyi, her name for the entirely personal, autobiographical story of how she met her husband when they were swimming together near Haasts Bluff. This is highly unusual. Kasumi Ejiri, manager at Papunya Tjupi Arts, says Nungurrayi is the only artist at the community who paints a non-traditional story. The circles in these paintings often represent waterholes, and the roundels extending from them are the designs women paint on their breasts.

“I have been told that Doris’s marriage was a great love affair,” says Ejiri. “When George Tjangala passed away Doris became a shadow of herself roaming the streets of Alice Springs. When Papunya Tjupi started she returned to Papunya to join her family and regained her strength through painting.”

Timothy Morrell

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