Papunya Tula Artists are sad to announce the passing of N Napurrula on 11th November. As many would know, Napurrula was a dialysis patient for many years at the ‘Purple House’, the Western Desert Dialysis unit established in Kintore so that old people need not need leave their community. PTA would like to thank the Purple House staff for supporting Napurrula while she was receiving treatment and also for the enormous amount of additional palliative care they provided.
Napurrula was one of the company’s most high profile artists and was dearly loved by her family as well as all the staff here at PTA. She has left us with some wonderful memories and a countless number of extraordinary paintings.
Napurrula was the classic case of a Desert woman artist. She was born about 1938 in the desert south of Kiwirrkura in WA. In her 20s she married the late great Yala Yala Gibbs, one of the founders of the Papunya Tula movement; they moved in and out of settlements as health and drought affected their family, but settled in Papunya in 1963. He began painting in 1971 and was one of the ‘inventors’ of the Tingari painting style “ a mosaic of concentric circles and connecting lines which supplanted the more revelatory secret/sacred work that came to be criticised by more spiritual tribesmen.
By 1974, the family had moved out of Papunya for Yayayi on their way West into the Pintupi heartland. Napurrula was undoubtedly Yala Yala’s helpmate in his elegant dotting. And by 1995, she’d joined the famous Haasts Bluff/Kintore Women’s Painting Camp to begin a solo career for herself. Just as white infilling had dominated the last stage of Gibbs’ painting, so Napurrula opted for countless variations on black, white and ochred brown for much of her distinctive work.
Highlights of her career since then were her selection amongst the 8 Indigenous to be built into the new Quai Branly Museum in Paris “ they chose a large and intense work –“Women’s Story” – simply in black and white painted in deep impasto over a red base coat which serves to enrich the work’s over-painting.
She was also chosen to have an artwork represented on an Australia Post international stamp in 2003. And in 2007 and 2008, Australian Art Collector magazine credited Napurrula with being one of the 50 most collectible artists in the country.
Napurrula’s work has been bought by most of the major institutions in the country ever since her first solo exhibition with William Mora Galleries in 2000. She also bore one son out in the Desert, and four more children “ two sons and two daughters – in Papunya.