Gordon Barney was born at Birrno (Alice Downs Station) in the East Kimberley in 1944 and now lives at Norton Bore Community, via Turkey Creek. His wife, the well known senior Warmun artist, Shirley Purdie, encouraged him to take up painting in 1998 when the Warmun Art Centre commenced operation. He is well known in the Warmun community as a strong law and culture man and an important ceremonial dancer. He is a skilled horse breaker and rodeo rider and he still works as a stockman. He favours painting with natural ochres and he carries a saddlebag on his rides in which he collects the different ochres he encounters.
The subject matter of his paintings is quite varied. His depicts the hills and rugged country of the cattle stations where he worked for many years. He also paints the Magoombarrany, Boorlnginy, Yarangga (Katie’s Yard), Laboony and Joorroomi country, and interprets the landforms and the ngarrangkarni (Dreaming) stories of Birrno. His style is characterised by his use of line and empty space.
Selected Solo & Group Exhibitions
2008 Warmun at Ten, Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, Darwin.
2008 Ten Years of Warmun Ochres, Chapman Gallery, Canberra.
2008 New Voices in Gija Art, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne.
2008 Mungowum Ngarraknaari Yaarun (Strong Stories, Strong Culture), Short St Gallery Broome.
2007 Greetings From Turkey Creek, Mary Place Gallery, Sydney.
2007 Back To The Board, Coo-ee Gallery, Sydney.
2007 From The Ground Up: Ochre Work From The Kimberley, Chapman Gallery.
2007 Ten Warmun Works, Balmain Art and Craft Show, Sydney.
2006 Gentlemen of Warmun, Seva Frangos Art, Perth.
2005 Gadfly Gallery, Perth.
2005 Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
2004 Gallery Bamberg Villa Dessauer, Bamberg, Germany (in cooperation with Aboriginal Art Galerie Baehr, Speyer).
2004 Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
2003 Garmerrun: All Our Country, Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide.
2003 Ngarrgoorroon, Yiyili and Yarrunga – Four Artists from Warmun, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
2003 The World Luxury Cruise Ship, Australasis (in cooperation with Thornquest Gallery, Southport, Queensland.
2001 Gordon Barney, Bett Gallery, Hobart.
2001 In Celebration, Peter Baillie Acquisitive Exhibition, Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide.
2001 Ochre Show, Short Street Gallery, Broome.
2001 Painting Country, Chapel off Chapel, Melbourne.
2001 Thornquest Gallery, Southport
2001 Beyond Wings, Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
2000 Ben Grady Gallery, Canberra.
2000 Bett Gallery, Hobart.
2000 Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
2000 Melbourne Art Fair 2000, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne.
2000 Michael Carr Gallery, Sydney.
2000 State of My Country, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
2000 This Earth for Us, Commonwealth Institute, London; Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh.
2000 The Collection. Aboriginal Fine Art & Weavings, Gallerie Australis.
1999 Aboriginal Art, IHK Wurzburg, Germany (in co-operation with Aboriginal Art Galerie Baehr, Speyer).
1999 Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne.
1999 Hale School Annual Art Exhibition, Perth.
1999 Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
1999 Japingka Gallery, Fremantle.
1999 Karen Brown Gallery, Darwin.
1999 Short Street Gallery, Broome.
Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth
“From The Ground Up: Ochre Work From The Kimberley”. Chapman Gallery, Canberra.
Kleinert and Neale The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture (Melbourne. Oxford University Press. 2000) ISBN 0195506599
“Ten Warmun Works”. Balmain Art & Craft Show, Sydney.
“The Unseen in Scene”. Aboriginal Art Galerie Baehr, Speyer, Bayer Australia, Sydney, Speyer 2000, Aust. Cat., ISBN 3980707202
Reviews and writings about the artist.
Gordon Barney was born at Alice Downs Station in the East Kimberley in 1944. He now lives at Norton Bore Community, Via Turkey Creek with his wife, the well know and extremely talented International artist Shirley Purdie. Gordon and Shirley are both joint Chairpersons there. Gordon is well known throughout the region as a stockman, and worked on many stations, including Springvale, Chinaman’s Garden country and Alice Downs, which form a great deal of the content of his paintings. He commenced painting in 1998 with Shirley and like his wife, favours the thick, crusty ochre medium. His depictions of the hills and rugged country he worked quickly became noticed by collectors, and his relatively short painting career has been extremely successful.
Gordon Barney would often carry a saddlebag with him that he filled with ochres he had sourced from riding through his country. Although he did not start painting until 1998, it is clear that Gordon always had a tender connection with his country and with the natural ochres that are found there. Gordon Barney was encouraged to paint by his wife and fellow artist, Shirley Purdie. He paints his country, Birnoowoo, around Alice Downs Station where his family would often camp, and other places including Magoombarrany, Boorlnginy, Yarangga (Katie’s Yard), Laboony and Joorroomi. Gordon’s use of line and empty space to depict the hills in his country makes his paintings distinct. This style is most evident in his work Goorndalngany, a beautiful ode to his lost brother who disappeared in this dangerous country after herding goats.
Gordon was born and grew up on Alice Downs Station. His father taught him how to do stockwork and he became known as a skilled horsebreaker and buckjumper (rodeo rider). When he was working on Mabel Downs Station he met Shirley Purdie who became his wife. Shirley is a well known senior Warmun artist who encouraged Gordon to paint his country. Gordon started painting in 1998 when Warmun Art Centre commenced operation, often painting various hill lines located in his traditional country. Barney's sense of concentration and focus on country are often reflected in these landscapes. An interesting aspect of Barney's work is that while he is working out bush as a stockman, he will often carry with him a saddle bag that he relegates to ochre collection. So at the end of his mustering stint, he will have a bagful of ochres that he has sourced as he has been riding through his country. His choice and application of ochres are unique to his paintings. Gordon continues to work as a stockman and is well known in Warmun Community as a strong law and culture man and as an important ceremonial dancer.