Helen S. Tiernan

1952 - - Present


Helen S. Tiernan is of Irish /Indigenous heritage of the Kulin Nation. An honours graduate from the Australian National University’s (ANU) Canberra School of Art, she has distinguished herself as a painter of considerable eloquence, technical virtuosity, irreverence and humor, whose work stands at the forefront of Indigenous identity art historical discourses today. She has major works of exploration and navigation featured in the exhibition displays of the National Maritime Museum and is represented in the collection of Parliament House, Canberra.

Tiernan has built her reputation on richly research-based content, quoting from her own heritage, as well as European and Indigenous archival records. More recently she has been inspired by Lynne Kelly’s Memory Code; Alison Page’s Clever Country; Ray Norris’ Astronomical Symbolism in Australian Aboriginal rock art and the ground-breaking exhibition Songlines- tracking the seven sisters co- curated by Margo Neale, where the collaboration of the use of Indigenous memory codes embedded within landscape has been acknowledged.

In this context Tiernan’s recent paintings, playfully remind us that landscapes are neither innocent or pristine, but rather, cultured spaces; repositories of ancient knowledge and deep memory where, from an Indigenous Australian perspective, they are storied with Songlines and Tjukurrpa and inflected with the moralities arising from mythology that remind us of how values and identities formed.Another articulation in Tiernan’s cross-cultural narratives, is the interweaving of symbolic references to instruments and vehicles of navigation, the subject of paintings from her earlier exhibitions.

Tiernan has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions nationally. Her works are held in private corporate collections in Australia, USA, United Kingdom, Europe and public collections including those at National Maritime Museum Sydney NSW; Parliament House Canberra, Legislation Assembly, ACT, the Australian National University (ANU) and the National Museum of Australia. Tiernan is the recipient of several awards and grants from the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).


2022        Storied Country, Laurine Diggins Fine Art Gallery, Melbourne

2022        Tjkurrupa, Studio 46, Fish Creek

2021-2     Memory Space, Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Redfern, Sydney

2017        Transculturation-sublime & Surreal Encounters of First Encounters in the Antipodes,

Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney

2015        If only the walls could talk, Yately House Braidwood

2014        Farming without fences, Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney

2014        Farming without fences-How Aborigines made Australia, Belconnen Art Centre, Canberra

2007        Shared Histories, Tuggeranong Regional Gallery, ACT

2005        Songlines-Journeys through country, ANU School of Art Foyer Gallery, Canberra

2004        Songlines-Journeys through country, Gippsland Regional Art Gallery, Sale

2002        Silent Generations, Alliance Francaise, Canberra, ACT


Selected Group Exhibitions

2020        20|20 - 20 ARTISTS FROM OVER AUSTRALIA PAINTING 20|20,

Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney

2017        Activist Expressionism-politics & beauty in Urban Aboriginal Art- Artist talk,

Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney

2015        Altenburg Galley, NSW

2014        Capitol Arts Patrons Organisation (CAPO) Fundraiser, CMAG Canberra

2013        Capitol Arts Patrons Organisation (CAPO) Fundraiser, CMAG Canberra

2012        Florieart, TAC Canberra

2012        Different stories, NAIDOC Week, TAC Canberra

2008        Unearthed, Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney

2007        The Perfect Alibi, Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney

2006        Picture this; alumni 2000-6, ANU, School of Art Gallery, Canberra

2005        Vinyl, M16 Art Space, Canberra

2005        Community Tracks NAIDOC Week Exhibition, ATSI Cultural Centre, Canberra

2004        TRAP, Tuggeranong Arts Centre, Canberra

2003        Temporal Fold, M16 Gallery, Canberra

2003        Kamberri Dreaming, National Museum of Australia, Canberra

2002        Casablanca, Capitol Arts Patrons Organisation (CAPO) Fundraiser, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

2001        ANU School of Art Drawing Prize, ANU School of Art Foyer Gallery, Canberra