Represented in the National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria, State Galleries and major private collections, Lorna Napurrula Fencer’s work has always been in strong demand. Regardless, in later years she had found a new freedom and joy of expression that radiates from her stunning canvasses.
As the senior custodian for the Napurrula Dreamings such as the ancient Yam Dreaming, Fencer had always provided special and privileged insights into her culture via her painting. Fencer had been renowned for her innate sense and use of color, but her newer canvasses had gone to a new level and exploded with a vibrant, full palette of color that brought a new vision and understanding to these ancient Dreaming stories.
Fencer's new work is a revelation. The combination of her unrivalled knowledge of tribal lore and Dreamings along with her intuitive use of color and free gestural brush strokes in telling her stories, has lead to comparisons with the late Emily Kngwarreye. Yet, Fencer’s work is decidedly and uniquely her own.
Fencer was born about 1925 at Yartulu Yartulu, and was custodian of inherited land, Yumurrpa, situated near Chilla Well, south of the Granites Mine Area of the Tanami Desert. Her father’s country was Wapuurtarli. In 1949 many Warlpiri, including Fencer, were forcibly transported to the government settlement of Lajamanu at Hookers Creek, situated in the country of the Gurindji people, 250 miles to the north of their own country around Yuendumu. Fencer nevertheless maintained and strengthened her cultural identity through ceremonial activity and art, and had asserted her position as a prominent elder and teacher in the community.
The travels of Napurrula and Nakamarrra kinship or “skin” groups were the inspiration for Fencer's work, and she was custodian of the Dreamings associated with bush potato (yarla), caterpillar (luju), bush onion, yam and also bush tomato, bush plum, many different seeds, and, (importantly) water, for the Napurrula, Nakamarra, Japarrula, and Jakamarra skin groups. She had been painting on canvas since the mid-1980s. Before she had painted on canvas, she painted on traditional women’s coolamons and digging sticks.
Biography courtesy of Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, Australia
skin group sister of Mitjili Napurrula
skin group sister of Ningura Napurrula
Invited Participant, Triennial John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (1998)
Conrad Jupiters Art Prize, Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Surfers Paradise, Australia (1997)