Dorothy Napangardi Paintings

Dorothy Napangardi - Warlpiri Artist, painted in Alice Springs, Mina Mina Dreaming stories from the Tanami Desert


Salt Series 2 by Dorothy Napangardi

Dorothy Napangardi  |  Salt Series 2

Jap 017083  |  Limited Edition Etching  |  70 x 49 cm

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Sandhills by Dorothy Napangardi

Dorothy Napangardi  |  Sandhills

Jap 017087  |  Colour aquatint etching  |  60 x 45 cm

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Kana-kurlangu Jukurrpa – Digging Stick Dreaming by Dorothy Napangardi

Dorothy Napangardi  |  Kana-kurlangu Jukurrpa – Digging Stick Dreaming

Jap 017086  |  Colour aquatint etching  |  59 x 46 cm

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Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa by Dorothy Napangardi

Dorothy Napangardi  |  Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa

Jap 017089  |  Colour aquatint etching  |  44 x 44 cm

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Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa by Dorothy Napangardi

Dorothy Napangardi  |  Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa

Jap 017077  |  Limited Edition Silkscreen  |  102 x 67 cm

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Dorothy Napangardi, Japingka Gallery

Dorothy Napangardi, Japingka Gallery

Who is Dorothy Napangardi?

Dorothy Napangardi’s (1952- 2013) innovative and distinctive painting style earned her the reputation as one of Australia’s most important Aboriginal artists.

Dorothy was born at Mina Mina, west of Yuendumu, in the Tanami Desert. Napangardi began painting ‘bush tucker’ stories in 1987 when her children were still young and well after she moved from her ancestral Warlpiri lands into Alice Springs, where she has lived the greater part of her life.

Major Art Award and Recognition

Dorothy Napangardi established her reputation as a pre-eminent Warlpiri artist when in 2001 she won first prize in Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.

Her minimal black and white painting was an elegant statement of the Mina Mina salt country that is associated with the Women’s ceremonial site in the area.

Her success was followed in 2002 with a major survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

What are the themes and style of Dorothy’s art?

Dorothy’s first paintings were colourful images of the bush banana dreaming. Working independently of art community pressures and politics left her free to experiment with painting techniques and styles. This, along with pilgrimages back into her homelands in the 1990s, allowed her to refine her visual representation of her Jukurrpa (Dreamings) and stories associated with Mina Mina, culminating in the finely patterned, minimal designs for which she is now so widely recognised.

Dorothy Napangardi’s paintings of Mina Mina have come to epitomise the classical minimal approach to landscape symbolism from Central Australian Aboriginal artists. But her early work was colourful and crowded with references to bushtucker and women’s roles as food gatherers.

Dorothy Napangardi’s connection with country is both the subject of and inspiration for her paintings. Her mature works have monochromatic backgrounds on which she paints a tracery of finely dotted meandering lines or ladder-like cells and grids in a contrasting colour. The large salt lake, Ngayurru (Lake Mackay) in the Warlpiri region is also depicted in Napangardi’s work.

Dorothy’s paintings are austere and classic distillations of the Central Desert art style. The artist stated “While I’m doing my painting I always have my family in mind. A few years ago we went back to Mina Mina to see my country” (Fire-works catalogue, 2007).

What are Dorothy’s Jukurrpa or Dreaming stories?

Dorothy’s later works came back to the theme of her Jukurrpa or Dreaming story associated with Mina Mina.

Dorothy Napangardi’s dreaming includes the story of the women from Mina Mina who were travelling eastward with their digging sticks, dancing all the way. The Warlpiri Snake Ancestor, Walyankarna, was travelling north. At a certain point they met and for a while the snake ancestor watched the women dancing, without revealing himself. Their dance was enthusiastic and energetic, such that the dust billowed and rose, eventually elevating the Ancestral Snake and bearing him away to Yaturlu Yaturlu (The Granites), located beside a small rockhole that never dries up.

Dorothy shares this story with the senior Warlpiri women from Yuendumu and Nyirripi, and has transformed her vision of the Mina Mina event into a memorable and powerful rendition of an ancient Dreaming story. Her body of paintings stands as a testimony to the rich tradition of the Warlpiri culture of the Tanami Desert.

Further Reading

Dorothy Napangardi Artist Profile
Dorothy Napangardi & Kim West Napurrula
The Art and Life of Dorothy Napangardi – 2020 Retrospective Exhibition
Dorothy Napangardi Exhibition Walk Through

Aboriginal Art Status

Highly collectable artist.

Awards and Recognition

2009     Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine
2008     TogArt Contemporary Art Award, Darwin Convention Centre, Darwin – Finalist
2002     Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine
2001     18th NATSIAA, Darwin – Finalist and Winner
2001     Alice Art Prize, Alice Springs – Finalist
2000     17th NATSIAA, Darwin – Finalist
2000     5th National Indigenous Heritage Art Award, Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra
1999     The Redlands Westpac Art Prize, Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney – Finalist
1999     16th NATSIAA, Darwin – Finalist and Highly Commended
1998     15th NATSIAA, Darwin – Finalist
1998     Northern Territory Art Award, Alice Springs – Winner
1991     8th NATSIAA Darwin – Winner Museum and Art Galleries Award

Solo Exhibitions

2020     The Art and life of Dorothy Napangardi – Dorothy Napangardi Retrospective Exhibition, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle
2020      Black & White 2020, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane
2014      Dorothy Remembered, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2007      country in mind: dorothy napangardi – stories from mina mina & yvonne mills-stanley – stories from the long paddock, Fire-Works Gallery, Brisbane
2007      Dorothy Napangardi: etchings and screenprints 2001-2006, Northern Editions Printmaking Studio and Gallery, Charles Darwin University, Darwin
2006     Karntu-kurlangu Jukurrpa, Gallery Gondwana, Sydney
2005     Dorothy Napangardi, Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco, USA
2004/5 Mina Mina – My Country, Gallery Gondwana, Sydney
2004     Mina Mina – My Country, Crown Point Press, San Francisco, USA
2002     Kana-kurlangu, Dorothy Napangardi, Gallery Gondwana at The Depot Gallery, Sydney
2002/3 Dancing up Country: The Art of Dorothy Napangardi, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
2001      Dorothy Napangardi: New Paintings, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
2001      Mina Mina: Dorothy Napangardi, Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs
2000     Recent Paintings by Dorothy Napangardi, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
2000     Dorothy Napangardi, Hogarth Gallery, Sydney
1999      Recent works by Dorothy Napangardi, Chapman Gallery, Canberra
1999      Dorothy Napangardi, Fire-works Gallery, Brisbane

Selected Group Exhibitions

2021     Reverence, D’Lan Contemporary, Melbourne
2021     Voyage across Aboriginal Australia – Founders’ Favourites, Fondation Burkhardt-Felder Arts et Culture, Moitiers, Switzerland
2021     Big Names Little Paintings, Cooee Art Gallery, Sydney
2020     The Women’s Show, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
2020     Director’s Choice 2020, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2019     defining tradition | black + white, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2019     International Women’s Day, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2017     Gems from the Stockroom, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2017     Along the Lines, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2012     Ancestral Modern, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle
2012     All Our Relations, Biennale of Sydney, MCA, Sydney
2011      Thinking outside the square, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2011      Almanac: The Gift of Ann Lewis AO, MCA touring exhibition
2011      Wet Paint, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2011      In Black & White, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle WA
2008     Women’s Law, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle WA
2007     Divas of the Desert, Gallery Gondwana, Sydney and Alice Springs NT
2006     Journey to Mina Mina, Gallery Gondwana, Sydney NSW
2006     Dreaming Their Way – Australian Aboriginal Women Painters, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, USA
2006     Group Show, Hosfelt Gallery, New York, USA
2005     Imagined Worlds – Wilful Invention of the Printed Image 1470-2005, AXA Gallery, New York, USA
2004     Mina Mina & Pirlinyanu, Holmes ả Court Gallery, Perth, WA
2004     Ngati Jinta – One Mother, Gallery Gondwana at The Depot Gallery, Sydney NSW
2004     Our Country, Our Art, PASCO Art Museum, Korea
2003     Collectors’ Show, Gallery Gondwana at The Depot Gallery, Sydney NSW
2002     Native Title Business – Contemporary Indigenous Art National Travelling Exhibition, Guran Land Council
2002     One Mother: Dorothy Napangardi and Sabrina Nangala, Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs NT
2001     Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne VIC
2001     18th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Darwin  NT
2001     Dreamtime: The Light and the Dark, Sammlung Essl Klosterneuburg, Vienna, Austria
2000/1 The Art of Place Exhibition, Australian Heritage Commission, Old Parliament House, Canberra ACT
2000     Songlines: Walala Tjapaltjarri & Dorothy Napangardi, Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London, UK
2000     Dorothy Napangardi & Walala Tjapaltjarri, Adelaide Festival Gallery, Adelaide SA
2000    1 7th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Darwin NT
1999     16th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Darwin NT
1999     Recent works by Dorothy Napangardi & Walala Tjapaltjarri, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne VIC
1998     Warlpiri Women, Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs NT
1998     Napangardi Dreaming – Ceremony and Song, Hogarth Gallery, Sydney NSW
1998     15th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Darwin NT
1991     8th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Darwin NT