Date of Birth: c.1945
Region: Utopia, Northern Territory
Born around 1945 on Bundy River Station in the region of Utopia, Barbara’s mother was acclaimed (now deceased) artist Minnie Pwerle. Her father was Irish. Barbara grew up with her aunty, (now deceased) Emily Kame Kngwarreye, who went on to become the most celebrated artist of the Utopia Movement and one of Australia’s best known desert artists.
At age 9 Barbara was taken from her family by Native Welfare (children taken at this time were known as the ‘Stolen Generation’) and fostered out to various families in Alice Springs, Victoria and Darwin. She lost all contact with her family and culture but vowed to return one day and re-claim her lost heritage. In the late 1960’s Barbara returned to Utopia with her children and re-established contact with family members, including the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye, and re-learnt her language and culture.
Exposed to numerous artists within her community Barbara developed a keen interest in painting and in 1994 travelled to Indonesia with a small group of artists to learn about the art of Batik. Barbara returned full of new and exciting ideas and began to develop her own distinctive and creative style. In 1996, at the request of a European Gallery Owner who had previously commissioned some of her work, Barbara travelled to Paris and Switzerland. Private collectors quickly purchased every painting and this proved to be the turning point in Barbara’s artistic career. Barbara’s contemporary style and skill soon attracted the attention of the collectors and it was not long before her paintings were drawing rave reviews from around the world. Since that time Barbara’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout Australia and the world, including Japan, America and Europe.
Currently residing in South Australia, with frequent visits back to her mother’s country, Barbara continues to seek new ways to illustrate her Aboriginal heritage and has succeeded to become one of the most exciting artists to emerge in the world of mainstream art. Her work having been described as “highly compelling abstract canvases that masterfully evoke a timeless illusion of depth and subtle rhythmic movement. It is an art that is as remarkable in its exquisite expression as is the story of her life”.
(Marie Geissler, Dacou Aboriginal Art Gallery)