Born in Subiaco, Western Australia, Julie Dowling grew up in a semi-rural urban area. Her indigenous background sparked her activism for the injustice and social issues behind her community. This ultimately became the inspiration and vehicle for her artwork and she would go on to be named as one of Australia’s most influential painters. 

Julie’s social realist style of art blends Australian Iconography (such as dot painting) with Christian symbolism and European portraits. Blending both native and European imagery further emphasise her strong political messages that speaks volumes of the power struggles that are still facing her community today. Representations of the colonised and coloniser were the subjects of many of her paintings. 

A common symbol used in Dowling’s paintings are depictions of a halo, commonly associated in Western culture with a saint or hero. Dowling re-defines this symbol’s term reflecting back to the time of the colonial empire and racism associated in today’s society. Through these images of a halo hovering on the subject’s head or images of children encompassed around multi-coloured hands, Julie focuses on the inner lives of those affected by the stolen generation. This has sparked many controversies but has brought to light a subject in Australian culture being recognised more today. 

Not only has Julie made a significant impact in Australian art culture but her recognition has grown to star status. In 1995, she exhibited her first solo exhibition at the Fremantle Arts Centre after being awarded a Diploma in Fine Arts. She then went on to study her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Curtin University in 1992. Julie won the Mandorla Art Award in 2000, winning the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award and was a finalist many times in the Archibald Prize. As her art grew nationally and her recognition for her contribution for her activism in the indigenous community earned her an honorary Doctorate in Literature from Mandurah University in 2002. 

To this day, Julie Dowling is a nationally and internationally known indigenous Australian artist who revolutionised and put a spotlight on indigenous social issues through her bold messages. This gave her the reputation of an extraordinary visionary artists of our time. 

-Eliz Bilal
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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