Jorna Newberry is a respected indigenous artist from the Northern Territory, living and working in Alice Springs. She is Pitjantjatjara, whose ancestral lands span the Central Desert and cross the borders of South Australia, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory. The Central Desert is renowned as the birthplace of contemporary indigenous art tradition. It can be said that the artistic impulse runs in Newberry’s veins: she was taught and encouraged in painting by her uncle, the famous indigenous artist Tommy Watson, who is well-known for his large-scale, vibrantly coloured canvasses, which were an inspiration for one of the murals at the Museé du Quai Branly in Paris.
By contrast to Tommy Watson, Jorna’s palette is by far more sensitive and subdued. It is partly owing not only to her own aesthetic choices but also to her particular subject matter. Jorna’s paintings utilise traditional iconography of the region to tell the story of Perentie, a lizard of ancestral and local significance. Perentie is the fourth largest lizard in the world, and the intricate patterns and mark-making on Jorna’s canvasses convey the patterns on the scales of the lizard.
The lizard, traditionally, is an important source of nourishment for the local indigenous population: the undulating lines within the paintings convey the tracks that the lizard leaves with its tale in the sand. Local indigenous communities follow the lizard’s tracks to the sources of water and edible seeds, plants, and roots. The secret language of Jorna’s paintings conceptualises time and space as it narrates the journey of the lizard across the desert through the changing seasons of the year.
A distinguishing quality of Jorna’s paintings is the subtle palette of white with accents of yellow, honey, and caramel tones contrasted most effectively against the stark black background. The paintings are also remarkable for their meticulous execution. By attaching a fine nib to the bottle with pigments, she produces works which are almost calligraphic in quality. Given Jorna’s attention to detail and the meticulous patterning and mark-making, it is no surprise that each work (depending on the size) may take up to six to eight (or more) weeks to produce. Painting for Jorna is a meditative experience, as it is through the language of art that she communicates sacred legends and ancestral dreamtime stories of the Pitjantjatjara peoples.
Though Jorna has begun exhibiting comparatively recently, she is attaining an ever greater recognition, with sell-out exhibitions in Melbourne, Sydney, and various galleries across Queensland and the Northern Territory, and the exponentially growing collectors’ following and intuitional recognition across Australia and abroad.
Selected Solo Exhibition
Recent Paintings, Gallery One, Gold Coast, QLD
Ngintaka Tjukurpa, Metro Gallery, Melbourne
Wind Dreaming, Cooee Art Gallery, Sydney
Selected Recent Group Shows
‘60 by 60 - Small Paintings’, Japingka Gallery, Perth,
Summer Collection, Brenda Colahan Gallery
‘Beyond Time’, Australian Aboriginal Art, Booker Lowe Gallery, Houston, Texas, USA
‘International Women's Day’, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
‘Landscape Colours’, Japingka Gallery, Perth
‘Desert Song’, Japingka Gallery, Perth
‘Desert Gold’, Japingka Gallery, Perth
‘Two Women Artists’: Jorna Newberry & Maisie Campbell, Napaltjarri, Japingka Gallery, Perth
Kunsthaus Zug, Zug, Switzerland
Corporate and private collections in Australia and overseas