Amy Johnson Jirwulurr b 1953 is known for her naïve depictions of the plant and animal life found in the local land and billabong regions. Her genius lies in her innocent depictions, enhanced with her choice of bright colour opposites – although her attitude and self assured persona are far from naïve. Her work, at times, combines derivative bark painting and figurative styles like her famous husband, Sambo Burra Burra.
Generally the images of totemic animals are understood as representing inherited law from her husband. Many animals have associated secret songs involving the search for sacred sites to enact the rituals surrounding circumcision and mortuary ceremonies. This right accompanied by her deep love and appreciation of her homeland and an awareness of the
intricate cycles of plant and animal life bear a narrative breathing life on the land and in the billabongs at a single harmonious glance. Works reflect innocence and happiness. Bright colours have become one of Jirwulurr’s trademarks; sophisticatingly interacting with balance.
Ngukurr was formerly a Mission Station established by the Church of England Mission Society in 1908 on the Roper River and was known as the Roper River Mission. The Church was replaced by a Government agency in 1968 and its name was changed to Ngukurr, which means a place of many stones.
In 1987 under the guidance of the Northern Territory Open College of TAFE, the people at Ngukurr on the Roper River had access for the first time to acrylic paint and canvas. The raw, bold and brightly coloured images that emerged shocked and defied preconceptions of Aboriginal art.
Amy Jirwulurr and Sambo Burra Burra are both committed painters and continually expand their repertoire, producing startling, powerful and very beautiful work.
Amy Johnson Jirwulurr is in most state and major private collections in Australia, including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (painted 1989, acquired 1990)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (painted 2001)
Museum de Lyon, France
1993: Rothmans Foundation Award, Northern /territory Aboriginal Art Award
2005 - winner of the Brian and Jeanette Lambert Art Acquisiton Award, Katherine City Council, Katherine, NT. 1993, Museums and Art Galleries Award [Best painting in European media], the Tenth National Aboriginal Art Award, Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences, Darwin.
Aboriginal Art and Spirituality, Rosemary Crumlin (ed.), Collins Dove, 1991.
Aboriginal Art, Wally Caruana, Thames and Hudson, London, 1993.
The 12th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Darwin, NT, 1995.
Caruana, W., 1993, Aboriginal Art, Thames and Hudson, London. (C) ; 1991, Aboriginal Women's Exhibition, exhib. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Togart Contemporary Art Exhibition, Top End Arts Marketing, Darwin, 2006.