Bernadine Johnson has been developing her style over the last few years and has really diversified her repertoire. She was born in 1974 in the Ltyentye Apurte Community (Santa Teresa), approx. 80km east of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and had a traditional upbringing before attending school in Alice Springs.
In her paintings, she incorporates traditional iconography and realistic elements. The themes are primarily bush medicines, yam dreaming, and body painting. As a bush woman, she is familiar with her land and its abundance of bush tucker species, medicine plants, and native fauna. These are the stories inherited by her, along with important women’s stories, and which form the basis of her paintings.
Bernadine is married to Stephen Martin Pitjara, the brother of well-known artist Anna Price Pitjara. Bernadine divides her time between Alice Springs and Adelaide, where she spends the majority of her time with her husband and two children.
About the artwork
The Bush Medicine Plant is an Australian native that grows wild in Central Australia. Women go to different places around Utopia to collect leaves from these plants. Back at the camp, the leaves are boiled to extract the resin. Kangaroo fat is mixed into the resin, creating a paste that can be stored for a long time in bush conditions. This medicine is used to heal cuts, wounds, bites, rashes, and acts as an insect repellent.
By painting about "Bush Medicine", Bernadine is paying homage to the spirit of the medicine plant in the hope that it will regenerate, enabling the people to continue to benefit from its healing properties.