Lisa Uhl

Language: Wangkajunga
Country: Kurtal
Born 1976 in Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia
Died 2018 in Fitzroy Crossing

Ms Uhl was a Wangkajungka woman who lived all her life at Fitzroy Crossing in the West Kimberley area of Western Australia. Not uncommonly for people of her generation, Ms Uhl had never been to the country she had inherited from her ancestors. Her works, across paper, print, canvas, Perspex and sculpture, represent anecdotally acquired knowledge of the distinct landscape of Wangkajungka country, rendered in vibrant colour and to mesmerising effect.

In 2018, Ms Uhl sadly passed at a young age, yet her legacy continues through her incredible body of work and with the recognition given to her as a leading artist uninhibited by her physical limitations. Ms Uhl’s work is held in several significant collections around Australia and was included in the recent major group exhibitions Desert River Sea, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth (2019); The National, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2019); Untitled Room 1, Hanging Valley Gallery, Melbourne (2016); Pinakarriiluny Marnalunya Ngalimpakura, ReDot Gallery, Singapore (2016); and Mangkaja Arts 21 Year Anniversary, Perth Institute for Contemporary Arts (2012).


Kurrkapi Trees, 2018
Atelier acrylic on canvas
90.0 x 120.0 cm
Courtesy of Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency, Fitzroy Crossing

Across her prolific artistic career, Ms Uhl devoted her practice – almost entirely – to the repeated depiction of turtutjarti (walnut trees) and kurrkapi (desert oaks); trees from her ancestral homelands of Wangkajungka country on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. While Ms Uhl herself spent her entire life in Fitzroy Crossing, stories of her country were passed down orally through her elders, including her mother Jukuja Dolly Snell, then translated visually by the artist into the distinct lines that characterise her colourful paintings. 

Kurrkapi Treess (2018), picturing desert oak trees known for providing nectar and shade, was one of the last paintings completed by Ms Uhl before her passing. Unusually it depicts a horizon line, revealing sky above the treetops. While made in Fitzroy Crossing, the inclusion of this work within the context of this exhibition speaks to the idea of the city as a gateway to rich creative practices existing within surrounding and remote communities, as well as to the entwined, and often fraught, relationship between urban and regional contexts.