Born 1933, Riya, Western Australia
Lives and works Warmun, Western Australia
Gija language group, Nagarra skin group
Phyllis Thomas is a senior Gija artist from Warmun, located in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. She presents a major body of work made especially for Telling Tales. Gemerre and Purnululu (2015-16) comprises four paintings in ochre on canvas, all connected to form one long, continuous panel of imagery that is six meters in length.
The work is a scarification painting – a series of long white horizontal and vertical lines that map out initiation scars on the body and chest, punctuated by areas of pink with dotting. The paintings allude to the bodily ornamentation that goes with ceremony and, in this case initiation rites. They are not about a particular story but the act of storytelling itself, through the body and ritual.