Bugai Whyoulter is a Kartujarra woman and a senior custodian of the lands surrounding Kunawarritji (Canning Stock Route Well 33) in Western Australia. Born at Pukayiyirna, now known as Balfour Downs Station, Whyoulter is of the pujiman (meaning bush or desert born and dwelling) generation, travelling the land around Jigalong, Nullagine, Punmu and Kunawarritji with her family, moving with the seasons from water source to water source.
Whyoulter’s family travelled what was later known as the Canning Stock Route, an 1850 kilometre-long track that traverses the Great Sandy, the Little Sandy and the Gibson Deserts. She spent her youth with her parents, younger sister Pinyirr Nancy Patterson (dec.), and extended family, primarily travelling around the eastern side of the Karlamily (Rudall River) region and along the midsection of the Canning Stock Route, from Kartarru (Canning Stock Route Well 24) to Kunawarritji (Canning Stock Route Well 33). As a young woman, Whyoulter returned to the same locations, travelling up and down large tracts of the Canning Stock Route as a cattle drover.
Whyoulter continued to live a pujiman life until 1963, when she, her husband and her family settled at Jigalong Mission, as some of the last of the Martu people to leave the desert. From Jigalong, Whyoulter moved to communities in Strelley, Punmu, and Parnngurr before relocating to Kunawarritji community, where she continues to live today. It was in Kunawarritji community that Whyoulter began to paint, learning from her relatives, the renowned artists Nora Nungabar (Nyangapa) (dec.) and Nora Wompi (dec.). The three women often painted together developing several intimate collaborative works while mentoring Whyoulter’s practice.
Today Whyoulter is considered one of the most established Martumili Artists and is known as a master of colour, gesture, and subtlety. Her self-reflective works are layered with distinctively delicate brush marks, with subtle colour changes representing the significant landforms of Kunawarritji, including water sources, and desert flora. Whyoulter’s approach to her practice is intuitive and gestural, effortlessly transferring intimate knowledge of the land and its stories upon her canvases.
Whyoulter has garnered significant recognition for her work; selected for the Bankwest Contemporary Art Prize and the Hedland Art Award in 2012, the Western Australian Indigenous Art Award in 2010, and the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in 2013, 2018, 2019 and 2021, where she was awarded the prestigious General Painting Award her work Wantili in 2021.
Whyoulter's work has been acquired by several major institutions in Australia, including The National Museum of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, and Queensland Art Gallery’s Gallery of Modern Art and she has been exhibited widely both nationally and internationally.
© The Artist, Martumili Artists and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne 2023