Spinifex Hill, Paintings from the Pilbara

The Koskela Gallery is pleased to present our latest exhibition Spinifex Hill, Paintings from the Pilbara, produced in partnership with Spinifex Hill Studio, an artist collective based on Kariyarra Country in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Spinifex Hill Studio is home to one of the youngest Aboriginal art collectives in the north-west of Australia, Spinifex Hill Artists.

As well as being the home of Spinifex Hill Artists, the Studio functions as a cultural hub for the broader Pilbara region. It is managed by non-profit cultural organisation FORM through a partnership with BHP, with support from the Federal Government’s Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program.

The exhibition celebrates the vibrant and unique works of five contemporary Pilbara female artists: Maywokka ChapmanDoreen ChapmanNancy Nyanilpayi ChapmanMulyatingki Marney and Gladys Bidu

Each artist's journey and connection to the land enrich their paintings, reflecting their cultural heritage and experiences. Let's meet these talented artists and explore their artistic worlds and unique stories: 

Maywokka Chapman

May was born during the 1940s in the desert near Ngarurr soak. She holds the distinction of being the eldest among her siblings, who are also artists – Nancy Nyanjilpayi Chapman, Mulyatingki Marney, and the late Marjorie Yates. In her youth, and extending into early adulthood, Mayiwalku journeyed across her parents' ancestral lands alongside her family. This area included the regions surrounding Punmu, Karlamilyi River, and Kunawarritji. Following the passing of their parents, the sisters continued their desert expeditions independently. However, on occasion, they would cross paths with and accompany other family groups on their travels.

Doreen Chapman

Born in 1971 in Jigalong, Doreen's life has been characterised by her movement between Western Desert communities in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. A Manyjilyjarra artist by heritage, she has dedicated the majority of her grown-up years to residing in Warralong, a community positioned 120km to the south-east of Port Hedland. Her artistic journey commenced alongside her mother, Maywokka May Chapman, and her debut exhibition under the Martumili artists' banner occurred in 2010. In more recent times, her presence has extended towards Port Hedland, where she embarked on her artistic pursuits at the Spinifex Hill Studios.

No fishing, no hunting, no car, painting, painting every day eh? You been bring ‘em, [s]he painting, painting, painting!’ [laughs] Maywokka May Chapman [mother] - Doreen Chapman

Doreen’s distinctive use of bright pastels and funky characterisations of animals, people and place are not only an expression of joy, but a portal into how she sees the world. As a deaf and non-verbal artist, Doreen uses her paints as a tool of communication which is clear through her emotive and endearing works.

Nancy Nyanilpayi Chapman

Nancy grew up in the country surrounding the Canning Stock Route. During the 1960s, she and her family chose to reunite with their extended relatives, leading them to relocate to Jigalong. Within her family constellation, she shares sibling ties with Donald Moko, Mulyatingki Marney, and May Chapman. During her formative years, Nancy was under the care of Eubena Nampitjin and Nora Nangapa. Prior to moving to Punmu in the 1980s, Nancy worked at various stations within the Pilbara region.

Gladys Bidu

"I’m from Punmu. I’ve been painting quite a while. Good while. About a long time ago, she (Gabrielle from Martumili) came out with canvas and painting to Jigalong and I seen that old peoples painting at the river bed, in the creek but I was sick that day. This is when I just start. My aunty (Jakayu Biljabu) taught me how to do painting, a couple of years ago. That[s] how I learned. I do Martumili painting. I do painting about my country, my birth area. It’s Wantili, well 25."

Gladys Bidu

Mulyatingki Marney 

During her youth, Mulyatingki traversed this region extensively alongside her family. After their parents' passing, the sisters journeyed through the desert autonomously, occasionally uniting with other family groups.

Upon encountering white people for the first time, her family hid in a cave until nightfall. The construction of the Canning Stock Route in 1910 introduced them to European and Martu drovers. Following a prolonged drought, her family moved to Balfour Downs Station, later moving to Jigalong Mission as one of the last desert-dwelling families.

In 1982, Mulyatingki joined the Return to Country movement, coming back to her homeland after years at Jigalong Mission. Presently, she resides in Punmu Community alongside her sister Nyanjilpayi Nancy Chapman.

We invite you to immerse yourself in the world of "Spinifex Hill: Paintings from the Pilbara" and join us in celebrating the cultural richness and artistic excellence of these remarkable artists and their profound connections to the land.

The Koskela Gallery is delighted to showcase a diverse range of First Nations artists and art centres from across Australia. As part of our commitment to reconciliation, our gallery space is a platform to recognise, respect and raise awareness of the important role community art centres and artists play in keeping culture strong.