Sally's mother, Jessie Harrison and family belonged to the Jardwadjali tribe of The Wimmera or “Little Desert” of Western Victoria.
Because her mother Jessie lived in Kamilaroi Country at Toomelah Mission on the border of Goondoowindi, Qld and Boggabilla, NSW, Sally is recognised by Aboriginals in these communities as a Kamilaroi woman from the second largest Indigenous group in Australia. Their lands extend from below the Hunter Valley in NSW right up to Moree, NSW.
Sally was born of an Indigenous mother and a white father, whom she never knew. Her mother was only 15 years old when Sally was born on January 26, 1949. Sally’s young mother did not have the wherewithal to give her a good start in life, living in a tent by the banks of the Murray River without any real support or assistance. At 4 months of age, the police came and took Sally and her mother to Cummeragunja Mission on the border of Victoria and NSW.
At 13 months of age, Sally became one of the “Stolen Generations” when she and Jessie were flown to La Perouse, in southern Sydney where they were separated. Jessie was exiled to the far north to Toomelah Mission, Boggabilla, NSW to work as a domestic on a cattle station on the border of Queensland. Sally was relocated to the Bomaderry United Aboriginal Mission where she
remained until her adoption at 5 when she “went away to live” with her adoptive parents at Nowra, on the south side of the Shoalhaven River near Bomaderry. (The missionaries called adoption "Going Away To Live"). It would be 43 years until Sally saw her mother again.
Sally refers to herself as a child of two cultures, with a foot in both camps – a Stolen Generation child, born Indigenous but then forced to deny her aboriginality and become a pseudo-white person, born on Australia Day with the adopted name of Cook. The missionaries wrote to Jessie saying that Sally fretted and refused to eat when she arrived at Bomaderry and almost died. Like the rest of the children she was being trained from infancy as a tiny toddler to become a domestic servant for a white family.
Sally's earliest memory is of lying in her cot with the sun warm on her skin. She is a true child of Nature which is part of her being and Aboriginality. Sally began painting at the age of 10 which became her means of escape from childhood problems behind closed doors and a healing tool in adulthood.
She took up dot painting in 1992 when living at Carnarvon, Western Australia before moving to the Pilbara in 1993 where she was supported and encouraged by elders of the Chedeetha community near Roeburne, almost 40 km from the Western Australian Administrative Centre of Karratha. This helped her understand herself and reconnect with her Aboriginality, in what she describes as a “huge adjustment” in her life.
Sally’s work draws on her Aboriginality, as, in her own words, she worked to embrace her true culture. Being stolen from your homeland and indeed your mother, is an anguish one may consider impossible to overcome both emotionally and physically.
In 2005 Sally staged her first solo exhibition at the Ipswich Art Gallery, “The Way We Were”, which recalled her time at the Bomaderry Children’s Home. This series of paintings reflected a distinctive shift in her painting style, an obvious new confidence in her work as she moved away from established traditional patterning into an almost impressionist style that would continue to
reveal itself in later works.
Two years later “The Power of Love” was staged on the Gold Coast and in 2010 Sally returned to the Ipswich Art Gallery with a collection of work entitled “Through the Looking Glass” featuring scenes of suburban Ipswich contrasting the natural with the man made. It was this collection of works that fully realised the combination of traditional dot painting and impressionism.
Sally followed this exhibition with another impressive body of work for the 2012 exhibition entitled “Secrets of the 26th Parallel”, featuring the landscapes of the immense Pilbara region of Western Australia, and again with her “Infinite Nature” exhibition of 2016 which featured startling landscapes and nature studies that reflected a maturing of the style she has been honing over the past decade.
Sally’s last exhibition was in July 2020 and was entitled “EastWest” - a reference she says to the two halves of her brain.
In her latest paintings Sally has moved away from dot painting techniques, saying that her 29 years of dotting has been an “apprenticeship” as an artist and taught her what she needed to learn about herself to become a complete Person and Artist.
She says, “Now it's time for me to move on and free up my paintings with more widely spaced dotting and more impressionist mark
making to allow them to ‘breathe’.”
Recently Sally Harrison’s work was projected during the SPARK IPSWICH deLight event, on St Mary’s Church Woodend in July 2021.
Sally Harrison is represented by email@example.com
Tragic beginning to meaningful conclusion
“Moulded by a strict Catholic upbringing, encased in the boarding school environment of the 1940 - 1950’s, preparing for the structured life of a nursing career - the path selected for my future - not of my own choosing - but a means to becoming self sufficient.”
This is how Ipswich artist Jil Nugent describes her youthful years. Then, as life would have it, the unexpected occurred.
“The loss of a child is so profound and so life changing.”
“During the grieving process and court cases dealing with the inquest that followed, the loss of my employment and being left with the anguish of a future with no direction and the continuing awareness of four remaining siblings still in education, I despaired.
“After applying for employment and being constantly rejected it was clear that self reflection required me to ask myself - What did I want to do?
“After years of repressing my love of the creative world I was now free to make choices - whether I survive or I give in. I chose the former.”
A phone call or two put Jil on the path of self discovery. A six month wait before interview at Queensland College of Art was occupied by a TAFE course which filled those days of indecision. At last an interview - waiting - acceptance!
Suddenly, it would seem, Jil was in the large volumous rooms of oil paint fumes and huge easels which ignited her with energy and excited anticipation.
“It was several years into study that I finally learned how to realise my internal screaming of anguish and pain visually.
My loss was the catalyst and large white canvases were calling me to explore the possibilities that only I could realise,” Jil says.
After successful completion of studies and armed with a new learning curve to apply in the real world of hard knocks Jil embarked on the new creative direction in her life.
“Painting, for me is really a way of putting emotions into perspective,” Jil says. “It’s dealing with how to transfer something very emotional, something compelling or sensitive into something visual.”
Jil Nugent is a prolific visual artist whose artwork explores the human experience through painting, sculpture and ceramics. Her work stimulates thought, nurture / tangible / real understanding and forges links between the work and the individuals that compose the community at large. An integral part of Jil’s artistic practice is writing poetry and prose and like her paintings, the writings are highly charged emotional statements.
“The language within my work replaces telling a story by every line. It is not the written word but the visual acceptance that can communicate a new reality.”
Jil’s association with Ipswich runs deep and she has been afforded the opportunity as Artist in Residence at The Workshop Rail Museum North Ipswich during 1994 and 1997 which enabled her to capture the end of an era and the start of a new through paintings and sculptures which reflected the essence of the workshops, buildings, trains and machinery of the industrial heart of the city.
Further Jil has explored her own personal relationship with the Catholic Church with a series of large paintings capturing and reflecting on the historic St Mary’s Church in Woodend. These works have been reproduced as a series of six beautiful greeting cards which are available to purchase from St Mary’s Church in Ipswich. The card sales will support the work of the church throughout the city.
Her work explores charismatic still life paintings from her beloved garden through abstract expressionism relating to often unspeakable life experiences.
Jil has exhibited widely including as Feature Artist for Queensland Rail’s 130 Birthday Ball, and in solo and group exhibitions at the Ipswich Art Gallery. Her much sought after work is also at home in many private collections.
You can explore Jil Nugent’s work online at facebook.com/jilnugentartist
Jil Nugent is represented by firstname.lastname@example.org