Marlee Napurrula

Aboriginal artist Marlee Napurrula lives in Haasts Bluff, an Aboriginal community 230 kilometres west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. She was born in Irrimarti, a place west of Haasts Bluff in the early 1930’s.

She works through the Ikuntji Women’s Centre which was ‘sung’ open in April 1993 when women from the nearby communities of Kintore, Mt Liebig and Papunya came to dance and sing with the Haasts Bluff women. Since then many activities have taken place in the centre. Painting has been the most popular. The artists of this area employ traditional symbols or inventive interpretation of their country, or a mixture of both. The people of Haasts Bluff are closely related to the people of Papunya, the Aboriginal community near Alice Springs where the contemporary Australian indigenous art movement first begun in the early 1970’s.

Marlee is the full sister of Gideon Tjupurrula and Coral Napurrula both artists who live in the same community. Marlee had one daughter, Maureen Wheeler from her first marriage. Later she married artist Long Tom Tjapanangka at Haasts Bluff and had two children with him, Ena Napangatji and Freddie Fly Tjapangati.

Marlee started painting at the end of 1993. She developed a distinctively individual painting style, experimenting with rich decorative colours, portraying bush flowers and nulla nullas, combining dots with solid areas of colour and line. Gradually her work became more and more simplified and refined, reflective of her country but unlike the work of her peers. In 1994 she was severely disabled during an operation and now paints with great difficulty. In 1999 she won the Alice Prize and was selected to appear in ‘Beyond the Pale’ exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Her work is held in public and private collections in Australia and overseas.
Subject & Themes
Desert blooms – Uwalki, nulla nulla
Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Flinders University Art Museum, South Australia.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
Group Exhibitions
1994 ‘Ikuntji: Paintings from Haasts Bluff 1992-94,’ Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
1994 Central Australian Aboriginal Art and craft Exhibition, Alice Springs.
1994 “Ikuntji Artists from Haasts Bluff’, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
1995 ‘Mitjili Napurrula and Marlee Napurrula,” Flinders Land Gallery, Melbourne.
1995 ‘Paintings from Haasts Bluff,’ Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
2000 ‘Beyond the Pale’, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
Strocchi, M., (ed.), 1995, Ikuntji: Paintings from Haasts Bluff 1992 – 1994, IAD Press, Alice Springs, Northern Territory.

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