Phyllis Donegan was born in 1973 in Milyirrtjarra (Warburton), on Ngaanyatjarra Country. She is the youngest daughter of fellow Ninuku artist and 2010 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award (NATSIAA) recipient Jimmy Donegan. Her mother was an accomplished member of the Tjanpi Desert Weavers.
Donegan now works across both of her parents’ mediums, collaborating with her mother and sisters among others on the iconic, ‘Tjanpi Grass Toyota’, winner of the 2005 NATSIAA. Donegan started painting professionally around this time.
The artist’s paintings are characterised by swales of zig-zagging line work rendered in subtle tonal gradients, depicting the iconography associated with her ancestral Tjukurpa (Dreaming stories) – Kungkarangkalpa Tjukurpa (Seven Sisters Dreaming) and Wati Kutjara Tjukurpa (Two Men Dreaming).
Donegan’s painting, Walka Wiru Ngura Wiru, transports us across the vast desert country surrounding the Tomkinson Ranges near the artist’s home community of Kalka, in the far north-western reaches of South Australia.
The painting’s title, ‘Walka Wiru Ngura Wiru’ translates into English as, ‘lovely country, lovely drawing’.
Through her skilful use of layering and tonal graduation, Donegan’s work creates an immersive experience – her paint appears to vibrate above the surface of the canvas creating a mesmerising optical effect. In this way, the artist breathes life into the undulating tali (sandhills) and puli (rocky hills) that characterise the sprawling desert country of her homelands.