Meet the Artist

Lorna Napurrula Fencer

Lorna Napurrula Fencer



ca. 1920 - 2006

Skin name





Lajamanu, NT

Lorna was born c.1920 in Yumurrpa country, which is situated near Chilla Well, south of the Granites Mine Area of the Tanami Desert.

Yumurrpa is an important Yam Dreaming site and the yam is a food staple for desert people that also hold important spiritual significance.

In 1949 many Walpiri people, including Lorna, were forcibly transported to the government settlement of Lajamanu at Hookers Creek, roughly 250 miles to the north of their own country around Yuendumu. Lorna nevertheless maintained and strengthened her cultural identity through ceremonial activity and art, and asserted her position as a prominent elder and teacher in her community.

Lorna was a skilled painter of decorative body designs for women’s ceremony, and in 1986 began to paint artworks on canvas. Over the next twenty years Lorna became a greatly admired artist who, along with Emily Kame Kngwarreye, pioneered the women’s art movement. They departed from the traditional iconography that men painted to a more personal and artistic expression.

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Lorna had a strong personality. She has been described as a non-conformist, revolutionary, tough, funny, flirty, bossy and wicked, with a rapier sharp wit. There was an energy and independent nature about her which is reflected in her paintings. She was a senior custodian of several Dreaming stories, and the assertiveness with which she painted was evidence of her great knowledge of her culture. The Yarla Dreaming, which tells of the ancestral women from the Napurrula and Nakamarra skin groups searching for bush potato, is a dominant theme in her work.

Lorna’s art is extremely bold, free, expressive, abstract and experimental. Many of her artworks burst off the wall with a physical or emotional force that a photograph simply cannot capture. One example of this is her well known painting entitled Grief (1997) which was painted following the death of her son.

Lorna would load the brush with paint before touching down on the canvas and layer the colours one upon the next. There is great emphasis on concealing intimate details about the dreaming stories, which leads viewers to continually gaze at her artworks, hoping that they will reveal more of their mysteries. Her final works were increasingly loose, gestural and layered. Lorna seemed to find a new freedom and joy of expression which radiated from her stunning canvasses

Lorna sadly passed away in December 2006. She is remembered as a vivacious woman and an important community elder. She is also acknowledged as making an important contribution to Indigenous Australian art. Represented in the National Gallery, State Galleries and major private collections, Lorna’s work has always been in strong demand, particularly for the discerning collector. Her work is highly valued.


1998: John McCaughey Memorial Art Award, National Gallery of Victoria
1997: Conrad Jupiters Casino, Gold Coast City Art Award

National Gallery of Victoria – Melbourne. National Gallery of Australia – Canberra, Museum & Art Galleries of the NT – Darwin, Museum of Victoria – Melbourne, Australian Heritage Commission Collection – Canberra,
Christensen Collection, held by Museum of Victoria – Melbourne. Holmes a Court Collection of Western Australia, Artbank – Sydney, Gold Coast City Art Gallery – Gold Coast QLD, Gantner Myer Collection of Aboriginal Art
Margaret Carnegie Collection, Laverty Collection – Sydney, Kerry Stokes Collection – Perth, Leewuin Estate – WA, Aboriginal Art Museum collection – The Netherlands.

2013 The Incomparable Lorna Fencer, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney, NSW
2009 The Genius of Lorna Fencer Napurrula, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney, NSW
2005 Lorna Napurrula Fencer: Recent Paintings, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney, NSW
2005 All About Yumarrpa, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne.
2001 A Tribute To Lorna Napurrula Fencer, Original & Authentic Aboriginal Art Gallery, Melbourne, VIC
1999 Yapa, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne, VIC
1999 Wild Warlpiri Women, Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney, NSW
1999 Tracks Across the Landscape, Land Rover Showroom, Sydney, NSW
1999 St Valentine’s Exhibition, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane, QLD
1998: Yulyulu, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
1997: Me Warlpiri, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne

2017, Gems of the Stockroom, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2012 The Colourists: Kudditji Kngwarreye and Lorna Napurrula Fencer, Japingka Gallery, Perth
2009 Size Matters, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney, NSW
2005 Decouvrir, Rever, Investir, Australian Embassy, Paris, France.
2004 The Dancers – Warlpiri Women, Art Mob, Hobart; Colour Power -The Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, Melbourne.
2004 21st Telstra National Aborigainal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
2003 20th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
2002 Lorna Napurrula Fencer, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, Western Australia
2002 Lorna Napurrula Fencer – The Big Picture, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
2002 Lorna Fencer – Inner Spring – New Works from the Tanami, Mary Place Gallery, Sydney
2001 Little Gems, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, Western Australia
2000 Opening of Yuwayi Art Centre, Yuwayi Gallery, Sydney, NSW
2000 Lajamanu, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, Western Australia
1999 Yapa, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
1999 United Nations Building New York, USA
1999 Australian Embassy in Washington D.C
1998 Yulyulu, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
1998 Wild Warlpiri Women, Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney
1998 Warnayaka Warlpiri, Karen Brown Gallery, Darwin
1998 Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
1998 6th Australian Contemporary Art Fair, Exhibition Building, Melbourne
1988 People, Place and Art, Hilton International Hotel, Adelaide, South Australia
1997/8 John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
1997 Women’s Body Paint, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
1997 Recent Acquisitions, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
1997 Me Warlpiri, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
1996 All About Art, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
1994 Yapakurlangu Wirrkardu, Batchelor College, Tennant Creek, Northern Territory
1991 Paint Up Big: Warlpiri Women’s Art from Lajamanu, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
1991 Aboriginal Art, Australian Embassy, Washington USA
1991 Aboriginal Art and Spirituality, High Court of Australia Canberra, ACT
1990 Paint Up Big, National Gallery of Victoria
1988 People, Place & Art, Hilton International Hotel, Adelaide

Ryan, Judith – Paint up Big Warlpiri Women’s Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Glowczewski, B – Yapa, Peintres Aborigines de Balgo et Lajamanu, 1991 Lebon Gallery, Paris Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne, Johnson, V – The Dictionary of Western Desert Artists, Craftsman House, East Roseville, New South Wales, Isaacs, J – Spirit Country – Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art, Hardie Grant Books, South Yarra, Victoria

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