Memory as Landscape
8 December 2005 - 28 January 2006
An exhibition featuring works of Utopian artists, Gloria and Kathleen Petyarr, Poly, Kathleen and Angeline Ngal, and Greenie Purvis Petyarr.
Memory as Landscape is an October Gallery exhibition in association with Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, Australia
Utopian artists are uniquely positioned at the forefront of a new direction in Desert painting. The artists draw on traditions of ceremonial body painting and Batik to produce, exquisite, shimmering canvases, which are contemporary translations of the oldest laws and culture.
For millennia, Aboriginal people in the central desert areas of Australia used markings in the sand to pass down stories. In 1971 art teacher, Geoffrey Bardon, arrived at the Aboriginal community of Papunya and convinced the older men to create a mural of their stories. The following year the first artists co-operative was formed (Papunya Tula Artists').
From such beginnings the Western Desert art movement grew to become one of the most significant of the twentieth century. Ancient symbols used to transmit stories now translated into acrylic paints on board and canvas, providing another way to preserve and pass on important information, cultural knowledge and memory, as well as offering new economic opportunities.
The community of Utopia, 250km north of Alice Springs, has built an international reputation for establishing significant contemporary artists. Batik making was introduced to Utopia in 1977. The Petyarr and Ngal sisters began their careers in the production of Batiks.
The 1980's saw a shift from textile to canvas as a way to translate the motifs of their Dreaming stories. One of the most celebrated artists to emerge from Utopia was Emily Kngwarrey, who died in 1997. It is particularly the elder women of Utopia, including the Petyarr and Ngal families, who have taken up the legacy of Emily Kngwarrey to create sophisticated paintings with fine dots of colour and elegant use of line. The artists often depict awelye, ceremonial abstract body paint designs, which symbolise women's knowledge of the land.
The paintings of the Alyawarr and Anmalyarr speaking Aboriginal artists are recollections drawn from a cultural heritage dating back thousands of years, which are totally at ease on the international stage of contemporary art and abstract design. For the artists of Utopia, painting is a modern language that crosses all boundaries - cultural, geographical, social and religious.
GLORIA TAMERR PETYARRb. 1946
Gloria's work is derived from her cultural heritage and the stories of Anungra, her country. Her work successfully embraces traditions and themes current in international contemporary art such as her use of abstraction, colour and form. Awelye, (ceremonial body painting) is the basis of her work. Gloria Petyarr's artworks have been acquired by major public institutions and countless private collections both within Australia and internationally. She is an integral part of the evolution of women's art from the eastern region of Central Australia and her work typifies the originality and diversity of painting in Utopia.
KATHLEEN PETYARRb. 1940
Recognised as one of the premier contemporary painters of the Central and Western Desert art movement, Kathleen's work is executed in the finest detail and depicts the travels of Arnkerrth, The Old Woman Mountain Devil Lizard. Since winning the 1997 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, she has found new representations, which border between cultural histories and figurative abstractions. Her compositions draw on diagonal tensions: illustrating travels, lakes and sacred sites. Kathleen's abilities as a painter are matched by her seniority in cultural knowledge and matriarchal duties of custodianship. Her work is represented in major international collections.
Kathleen Ngal's work is a sophisticated play between the cultural knowledge of her country and the contemporary expression formed through the medium of acrylic paint. Thousands of dots of colour are rained across her canvas, denoting flora and geographical and sacred sites of the Bush Plum. In 2000 Kathleen Ngal was exhibited as a finalist in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award. She has been exhibiting nationally and internationally since 1999.
Poly Ngal's paintings often depict bright yellow seeds amongst the Bush Plums that grow in her country. Poly's confident approach to her work can be seen in the way she assembles streams of seeds, piling dots upon each other to create thick fields of glowing colour. Poly was a finalist in the 21st Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award, 2004.
GREENIE PURVIS PETYARR
Greenie Purivs Petyarr is a very important senior elder of the Eastern Anmatyerre tribe. He is in charge of the Emu Dreaming on the Southern End of Utopia Station. His works have developed stylistically from traditional ceremonial designs to colourful linear and random coloured dotted works, heavily influenced by Emily Kngwarrey - his aunt.