Artist | LENA NYADBI

Artist | LENA NYADBI


Australian Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) artwork by LENA NYADBI of Warmun Artists. The title is Kangaroo Rock, Bow River. [WAC025/02] (Natural Ochre and Pigments on Canvas)

LENA NYADBI

Kangaroo Rock, Bow River

Australian Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) artwork by LENA NYADBI of Warmun Artists. The title is Dayiwul Ngarranggarni. [WAC267-17] (Natural Ochre, Charcoal and PVA Fixative on Canvas)

LENA NYADBI

Dayiwul Ngarranggarni

Australian Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) artwork by LENA NYADBI of Warmun Artists. The title is Dayiwul Ngarranggarni. [WACP07/11-1/50] (Etching - Edition of 50)

LENA NYADBI

Dayiwul Ngarranggarni

Australian Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) artwork by LENA NYADBI of Warmun Artists. The title is JIMBIRLA COUNTRY. [WAC P10-14/50] (Etching - Edition of 50)

LENA NYADBI

JIMBIRLA COUNTRY

Lena Nyadbi was born c. 1936, at Walmanjilukum (Greenvale Station), East Kimberley, Western Australia. As with many Gija people from the Kimberley region, Nyadbi grew up and worked at the original Lissadell Station, south of Kununurra, before the newly established Argyle Diamond Mine forced its relocation to a new site.

Although she did not begin painting until in her sixties, Lena Nyadbi had ‘bin too busy workin‘ on the Old Lissadel Station, where she grew up in the 1930’s – with the opening of the Warmun Art Centre in 1998 – Nyadbi had learnt many techniques from her contemporary Paddy JAMINJI (1912–1996). He showed her how to prepare and grind ochres and rub charcoal into the canvas as a base to give a matt but textured background – a mode that today is seen as a recognisably Kimberley style of painting. In 2006 Nyadbi was one of eight artists from Australia who were featured in the newly opened Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. Her work Jimbala (Spearhead Country) Dreaming, based on her father’s stony country and the spearheads made from that area, was rendered in relief on the external walls of the administration building, adding another cultural layer to the Paris landscape and it was later added to in 2016 with an additional roof installation on the top of the museum.

Despite initial skepticism, once Lena’s work had been acquired by the Kerry Stokes collection and exhibited in the 2000 Adelaide Biennale ‘people had to accept the fact that the Warmun community had another artist with talent and power’. Along with Paddy BEDFORD, who painted for Jirrawan Arts, Lena NYADBI was the most exciting of the East Kimberley artists during the first five years of the new millennium. The gritty surfaces of her paintings skillfully combined figurative motifs alongside semi naturalistic outlines of the mountainous landscape. At their busiest, her compositions included unusual dotted in-fill and far fewer glimpses of empty expanse than in the works of other Warmun painters. This penchant was a precursor to the repetitious patterns that came to dominate her later work.

While the transition from identifiable landscape features to seeming abstraction was not clearly defined, her work, prestigiously shown in the Biennale of Adelaide exhibition Beyond the Pale in 2000, comprised solely of a panel of white on which linear Jimbala spearhead formations were depicted as long black brushstrokes that filled the canvass, like an aerial perspective of slightly askew dominoes set in lateral lines. Nyadbi’s motifs are derived from the sharp rocky landscape her father’s country at Jimbala. Her repetitive long isolated brushstrokes represent the Kumerra or cicatrices (body scars) made by spearheads during initiation ceremonies. Nyadbi explains ‘we used jimbala to cut em la chest, la arms’. Her other prominent motif, crescent in shape, represents the scales of the Barramundi fish - Daiwul Ngarranggarni (Barramundi Scales) Dreaming, an important creator of this country. Together these motifs have gained significant importance in her work, operating as the means to her abstraction, whilst maintaining cultural significance.

In simplifying her canvases Nyadbi has undoubtedly been able to refine her use of colour, carefully playing with tonal shifts across a single ochre colour. The contrasts creating both a resonance, and tension, with compelling visual finesse. By using simple lines and geometric shapes in a palette of natural red and yellow ochres, white clays and black charcoal, Nyadbi adds depth and texture while highlighting different elements of her work. Although Nyadbi has represented this story both as an abstract aerial map and plan view of her Country, it is evident in her minimalist composition that she captures the spirit of the story – of the escaping barramundi and the fallen diamond scales in Country. It is a wonderful explanation of how diamonds came to be, but a sad reminder of the impact that mining has had on the Gija people and their landscape. Their traditional Country is very important and sacred to the Gija people, and, by using in her works raw material collected from her lands, she is strengthening her cultural connections to Country and her links to the ancestral stories.

In Nyadbi’s depiction of the Daiwul Ngarranggarni story, she shows the journey three ancestral women took when they laid out a spinifex net across Lake Argyle to catch barramundi. Once the women reached Gawinji (Cattle Creek), they stopped and left the net there, where it eventually turned to stone. These Ngarranggarni (barramundi) rocks are represented in her works by the large brown featureless forms and the net by the parallel white lines. It is believed that the diamonds are the scales of the barramundi as they jumped from area to area to escape the nets laid out by the women. The Gija people believe the ongoing mining by the Argyle Diamond Mine has destroyed this significant site. By painting these stories, Nyadbi maintains her Gija culture and history and her deep connections to Country, at the same time passing them on to future generations. Her minimalist approach and unique compositions mark Nyadbi as one of Kimberley’s reigning contemporary artists. As testament to her growing brilliance, Nyadbi’s powerful Jimbala motifs now adorn the exterior of the new Musee de Quay Branly in Paris. Nyadbi, who lives in Warmun with her partner Glancy Patrick and sister Goody Barrett was pleased to have the Jimbala imagery used as wall treatments in the new Paris building but was reluctant to visit France to see it. With typical humour she exclaimed, 'Goody has been to Paris and it’s too cold!'



Lena Nyadbi was born c. 1936, at Walmanjilukum (Greenvale Station), East Kimberley, Western Australia. As with many Gija people from the Kimberley region, Nyadbi grew up and worked at the original Lissadell Station, south of Kununurra, before the newly established Argyle Diamond Mine forced its relocation to a new site.

Although she did not begin painting until in her sixties, Lena Nyadbi had ‘bin too busy workin‘ on the Old Lissadel Station, where she grew up in the 1930’s – with the opening of the Warmun Art Centre in 1998 – Nyadbi had learnt many techniques from her contemporary Paddy JAMINJI (1912–1996). He showed her how to prepare and grind ochres and rub charcoal into the canvas as a base to give a matt but textured background – a mode that today is seen as a recognisably Kimberley style of painting. In 2006 Nyadbi was one of eight artists from Australia who were featured in the newly opened Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. Her work Jimbala (Spearhead Country) Dreaming, based on her father’s stony country and the spearheads made from that area, was rendered in relief on the external walls of the administration building, adding another cultural layer to the Paris landscape and it was later added to in 2016 with an additional roof installation on the top of the museum.

Despite initial skepticism, once Lena’s work had been acquired by the Kerry Stokes collection and exhibited in the 2000 Adelaide Biennale ‘people had to accept the fact that the Warmun community had another artist with talent and power’. Along with Paddy BEDFORD, who painted for Jirrawan Arts, Lena NYADBI was the most exciting of the East Kimberley artists during the first five years of the new millennium. The gritty surfaces of her paintings skillfully combined figurative motifs alongside semi naturalistic outlines of the mountainous landscape. At their busiest, her compositions included unusual dotted in-fill and far fewer glimpses of empty expanse than in the works of other Warmun painters. This penchant was a precursor to the repetitious patterns that came to dominate her later work.

While the transition from identifiable landscape features to seeming abstraction was not clearly defined, her work, prestigiously shown in the Biennale of Adelaide exhibition Beyond the Pale in 2000, comprised solely of a panel of white on which linear Jimbala spearhead formations were depicted as long black brushstrokes that filled the canvass, like an aerial perspective of slightly askew dominoes set in lateral lines. Nyadbi’s motifs are derived from the sharp rocky landscape her father’s country at Jimbala. Her repetitive long isolated brushstrokes represent the Kumerra or cicatrices (body scars) made by spearheads during initiation ceremonies. Nyadbi explains ‘we used jimbala to cut em la chest, la arms’. Her other prominent motif, crescent in shape, represents the scales of the Barramundi fish - Daiwul Ngarranggarni (Barramundi Scales) Dreaming, an important creator of this country. Together these motifs have gained significant importance in her work, operating as the means to her abstraction, whilst maintaining cultural significance.

In simplifying her canvases Nyadbi has undoubtedly been able to refine her use of colour, carefully playing with tonal shifts across a single ochre colour. The contrasts creating both a resonance, and tension, with compelling visual finesse. By using simple lines and geometric shapes in a palette of natural red and yellow ochres, white clays and black charcoal, Nyadbi adds depth and texture while highlighting different elements of her work. Although Nyadbi has represented this story both as an abstract aerial map and plan view of her Country, it is evident in her minimalist composition that she captures the spirit of the story – of the escaping barramundi and the fallen diamond scales in Country. It is a wonderful explanation of how diamonds came to be, but a sad reminder of the impact that mining has had on the Gija people and their landscape. Their traditional Country is very important and sacred to the Gija people, and, by using in her works raw material collected from her lands, she is strengthening her cultural connections to Country and her links to the ancestral stories.

In Nyadbi’s depiction of the Daiwul Ngarranggarni story, she shows the journey three ancestral women took when they laid out a spinifex net across Lake Argyle to catch barramundi. Once the women reached Gawinji (Cattle Creek), they stopped and left the net there, where it eventually turned to stone. These Ngarranggarni (barramundi) rocks are represented in her works by the large brown featureless forms and the net by the parallel white lines. It is believed that the diamonds are the scales of the barramundi as they jumped from area to area to escape the nets laid out by the women. The Gija people believe the ongoing mining by the Argyle Diamond Mine has destroyed this significant site. By painting these stories, Nyadbi maintains her Gija culture and history and her deep connections to Country, at the same time passing them on to future generations. Her minimalist approach and unique compositions mark Nyadbi as one of Kimberley’s reigning contemporary artists. As testament to her growing brilliance, Nyadbi’s powerful Jimbala motifs now adorn the exterior of the new Musee de Quay Branly in Paris. Nyadbi, who lives in Warmun with her partner Glancy Patrick and sister Goody Barrett was pleased to have the Jimbala imagery used as wall treatments in the new Paris building but was reluctant to visit France to see it. With typical humour she exclaimed, 'Goody has been to Paris and it’s too cold!'



My Country and Me (Ngagenyji Nawiyangeny-nung…

A Collection of Fine Warmun Aboriginal Art