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Category Archives: Kathleen Petyarre
Kathleen Petyarre was born at Atnangkere soakage, located on Utopia Station some 270k’s north-east of Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Her estimated date of birth is somewhere between 1930 and 1940 and has not been clearly established.
Kathleen Petyarre is a senior member of the Alyawarre/Eastern Anmatyerre people and speaks Eastern Anmatyerre. Kathleen, together with her daughter Margaret and her sisters, settled at Iylenty (Mosquito Bore) on Utopia Station near her birthplace. She got involved with the famous “women’s Batik Group” in the late 1970s, which was lead by Jenny Green, who organized the workshops.
It was not until the mid 1980’s that Kathleen begun painting on canvas using acrylic paints. This new style was encouraged by the CAAMA summer project in 1986, which is often referred to as the starting point of Kathleen’s use of the new media.
Kathleen’s background is one of a family of artists – she is the niece the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye, arguably the most accomplished Aboriginal artist to date.
Kathleen Petyarre has seven sisters, who are often referred to as the “Petyarre Sisters”, a term that has become almost synonymous with “Utopia Fine Art”. Among Kathleen’s sisters are Gloria Petyarre, Violet Petyarre and Myrtle Petyarre who are all well-established Aboriginal artists.
Petyarre’s paintings are well known for her depiction of a limited number of designs, or stories, including her famous motifs of “Mountain Devil Lizard” and “Bush Seeds”. Her works are often characterised by a refined layering technique featuring delicate and often multi-layered dot work.
The stories in Kathleen’s artworks usually refer directly to her home country at Utopia and her Dreamings. Dreamings, also often referred to as “totems” are understood to be complex spiritual concepts that relate to a time in the distant past during which mythological beings travelled the still featureless earth. By travelling over the still barren land and by singing physical features into existence, the earth as we know it today with all its mountains, rivers, trees etc. came into being.
Petyarre often uses thin wooden sticks, preferably chicken skewers, to apply the myriad of tiny dots onto her canvas that so often feature in her paintings. Even when using a handful of skewers at a time (to speed up the process), Kathleen sometimes spends weeks on one canvas alone.
Kathleen is oftwn heralded by the international art community as being one of the most successful and influential contemporary Aboriginal artists today. She has repeatedly been nominated by prestigious art journal Australian Art Collector as “being amongst the 50 most collectable artists in Australia”. Her reputation as one of the most original and accomplished indigenous artists has, both, here in Australia as well as overseas, been confirmed by her regular inclusion in exhibitions at the most distinguished museums and galleries the world over.
Kathleen Petyarre’s paintings can be found in private and public collections aceoss the globe. Her work has been chosen (along with a selected few other Aboriginal artists) for inclusion in the permanent collection of the new Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, France.
In 2001 a book about her art and accomplishments entitled ‘Genius of Place’ was published in conjunction with a solo exhibition of her artworks at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia.
Kathleen’s paintings are in great demand which is reflected by the high prices at auctions (record price to date: $80,000 at Deutscher-Menzies 25 March 2009 for ‘Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming’, 2008 (synthetic polymer paint on Belgian linen, 184.0 x 245.0 cm) inscribed verso: GAKP1108537/ KATHLEEN PETYARRE
In 1996 Kathleen was the winner of the 13th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. A year later, some controversy developed regarding her winning entry. Ray Beamish, Kathleen’s estranged partner of 10 years, claimed that he had had a hand in the execution of the artwork that had won her the award. As a result of this development the Aboriginal art market at the time underwent some degree of turmoil resulting in much stricter emphasis being put on the documentation of authorship in Aboriginal paintings. Kathleen Petyarre’s name was eventually cleared, and she was able to retain her award.
Kathleen Petyarre now lives in Adelaide, South Australia where she works and often spends her time with family members who frequently visit her from Utopia and Alice Springs.