Pintubi artist, Narpula Scobie Napurrula, was born at Haasts Bluff in February 1950 and grew up in Papunya. Her father was Toba Tjakamarra and her mother was Nganyima Napaltjarri. She is the younger sister of renowned artist, Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula and shares the same father with another well known artist, Mitjili Napurrula. Her ‘breeding’ as a painter is impeccable.
It was at Papunya, of course, that the desert art movement began. This came about in 1971 when Narpula was just twenty one years old. As the movement gained momentum Narpula assisted her husband, Johnny Scobie Tjapanangka one of the early Papunya painters, by painting the dotted background details to his paintings.
Narpula was Johnny Scobie’s ‘promised’ bride and they married in Alice Springs.
In her recent book Vivien Johnson writes about the couple.
Narpula is tall and slender like her brother, but Johnny Scobie was, in Dick Kimber’s words, ‘at that time easily the tallest Pintubi man at about 6’4” or 6’5” (1.9m)’. The couple lived first at Haasts Bluff where Johnny worked as a stockman at the government cattle station, before moving to Papunya.
Johnny’s name appears on the list of original shareholders of papunya Tula Artists, but only a handful of paintings are attributed to him from the very early years.
Nevertheless, Narpula grew up with the traditions of desert art and worked at Papunya at an historic moment in time.
In December 1982 Narpula started painting at Papunya in her own right. Several years later Narpula along with other Pintupi, moved back to their traditional lands around Kintore which is is directly west of Alice Springs, some 50 kilometres from the Western Australian border. Settling there she continued to paint for Papunya Tula Pty Ltd. She was the first woman in Walungurru (Kintore) to do so. She is described by Vivien Johnson as being ‘a talented artist in her own right’.Narpula then, may be regarded as the ‘founder’ female painter at Kintore.
As the practice of painting by women developed there, the Kintore ‘school’, which includes Makinti Napanangka, Tjunkiya Napaltjarri , Walangkura Napanangka and Ningura Napurulla, became pre-eminent in western desert art and their works have been sought by collectors from around the globe. During 1994 a community women’s art project was arranged at Haasts Bluff. Many Kintore women attended. A very positive result was an effusion of women’s painting from 1996 onwards. Eileen Napaltjarri, wife of leading Kintore artist Kenny Williams Tjampitjinpa, is just one of the contemporary stars of the Kintore School. Together with the Utopia area, Kintore has certainly become the most important desert painting site during the last two decades. The women painting there have largely been responsible for this great success.
Of course, Kintore, which is central to Pintupi traditional country, has also been the home of outstanding male painters such as Turkey Tolson, Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi, Pinta Pinta Tjapanangka, Ronnie Tjampitjinpa and Mick Namarari.
In using the technique of dotting across the whole canvas to depict her traditional Dreaming stories, Narpula has created works which are immediately recognisable for their subtle shades of colour, visual intensity and dynamic movement. Very much concerned with ceremony and desert mythology, Narpula’s work has an air of authenticity which harks back to her early traditional life and her connection with one of the great and unique Australian painting movements. Body paint design is dominant as is the ‘Kintore’ style application of luscious textured paint.
Narpula now lives at Mt Liebig. Her paintings have been exhibited widely in Australia and overseas. Like her colleagues from Kintore and the western desert her work is highly sought by collectors nationally and internationally.”