I was born in Sydney in 1973 and soon after that, my family returned to my dad's much loved Western NSW.

It was Dubbo where my mother and sixth generation bushman father opened a gun store. We were a standard rural working class family who made compromises to pay the bills and support each other. 

I don’t know if I was born an artist but I certainly was made into one. My earliest memory of making art was sitting on the veranda at my parents’ house with a box of those cheap, round watercolours that make ghostly marks on paper. I did a painting of a pot of flowers that my mother had grown. I remember her walking past and then doing a double take, she turned and said to me, 'That’s actually good'. It was the first time I’d really heard those words. I buried that little seed in my chest and I guess it grew later.

I loved animals when I was young. It was always a fight of conscience to go hunting with my father, but it was my opportunity to be with him. We would travel to remote places and camp in bush huts. My art stems from those experiences. Killing one thing to love another. Being in the middle of nowhere, but knowing where you come from. Having everything but appreciating nothing I was given.

The faces and scenes I portray in my work are attempts to make reconciliations with my past, live in the present and imagine the future. I paint people from the inside out. At any given moment I am working on around ten to twenty paintings at a time in the studio. That way I can sit with them and see which demands my attention the most. But I always start with the ugly duckling. I work across multiple mediums and am constantly experimenting with them to create new ways of telling my stories. 

At this point, art really isn’t a choice for me anymore. I think when you are first out of art school there’s always a backup plan if things fail. I’ve been down the rabbit hole a little too long now, so I suppose I don’t really know how to do anything else. I find comfort in making art because it’s the only place I don’t have to compromise.

Sally Bourke, 2016.

University of Newcastle 2001 Bachelor of Arts Fine Art.


2017 (July) GHOSTING, Junior Space, Melbourne
2017 (May) BRUTAL, The Lock Up, Newcastle
2009 OVERPASS, Arts Systems Wickham, Newcastle

2008 LATITUDE, The Lock Up Artspace, Newcastle

2007 AFTERGLOW John Miller Galleries, Newcastle

2005 STOWAGE John Miller Galleries, Newcastle
2004 FRAGMENTS John Miller Galleries, Newcastle
2003 PAST TENSE John Miller Galleries, Newcastle
2004 QUEEN, Watt Space, Newcastle


2016 New Slang, Den Holm, Melbourne
2014 Eternity, Ghetto Gallery, Sydney
2014 The Collector’s Choice, University of Newcastle Gallery, Newcastle
2013 An Open Secret, Cessnock Region Art Gallery, NSW
2013 Opening the Box, Tamworth Region Art Gallery, NSW
2013 Opening the box, Four Point Gallery, Newcastle
2012 More From the Box, Moree Art Gallery, NSW
2011 MARITIME, The Lock Up Artspace, Newcastle
2010 Drawn To Abstraction, Arts Systems Wickham, Newcastle
2009 Newcastle By Name, John Miller Galleries, Newcastle
2009 You’ll Fest, Arts Systems Wickham, Newcastle
2008 Fathom, John Paynter Gallery, Newcastle
2007 Pretty Little Things, Back to Back Gallery, Newcastle
2007 My Favourite Things, Foresight Gallery, Newcastle
2006 Pandora’s Box, Newcastle Art Space, Newcastle
2005 Eight Painters, SAUC Gallery, Sydney
2004 Erotica, Podspace, Newcastle
2004 Yellow + Blue, Watt Space, Newcastle Greens, Newcastle
2004 Summertime, John Miller Galleries, Newcastle
2004 Intercourse, Watt Space, Newcastle
2003 Museum, Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle
2003 About Time, Rocketart, Newcastle
2003 The Red Balloon, John Miller Galleries, Newcastle