2000/0112 Arlatyite Dreaming

Arlatyite Dreaming

Artist

Emily Kam KNGWARREYE
Aboriginal/Indigenous
Birth:
c 1910
 in
Utopia, Northern Territory
Death:
1996
 in
Northern Territory

Artwork

Title
Arlatyite Dreaming
Date
1995
Medium/Material
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Dimensions
125.0 x 221.0cm (Height x Width x Depth)
Credit line
Gift of Sue and Ian Bernadt, 2000
State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession Number
2000/0112
Currently not on display

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Extended Label

Emily Kame Kngwarreye was a senior member of her community, the Anmatyere people, and keeper of many traditional stories that she expressed through her art. She began painting on canvas when she was 80 years old and continued painting until her death in 1996. Her paintings reflect the ceremonial and spiritual importance of her daily life and the totemic meaning of plants, animals, land and water. Kngwarreye's work portrays a deep understanding and connection with her Country, the Alhalkere which is also known as Alalgura.During her short painting career of only 8 years Kngwarreye developed many different painting styles. She started her career utilising traditional dot work and later began to paint using horizontal or vertical broad brush strokes. These were often based on traditional body painting designs that are painted on women for ceremony.The painting Artlatyite Dreaming is a dynamic example of this style. There is a strong sense of gestural innovation in this painting. The intertwining meandering strokes on the black canvas represent underground networks of atnulare [finger yams] a common food source for Indigenous people living on Alhalkere.Kngwarreye is often compared to impressionists like Claude Monet as well as modern abstract painters, such as Jackson Pollock. In Artlatyite Dreaming you see the same use of organically interwoven lines that Pollock uses in his paintings.Only a week before Kngwarreye died there was a radical shift in her work, her paintings become alive with vibrant colour, painted with wide brushes over black backgrounds and deviating away from her previous styles.Emily Kngwarreye's career may have been relatively short but her paintings which resonate as contemporary abstractions, have had a profound impact on Australian art as well as international perception of the art of Indigenous Australia.Shorter version for SAC 2011Emily Kame Kngwarreye was a senior member of her community, the Anmatyere people, and keeper of many traditional stories that she expressed through her art. She began painting on canvas when she was 80 years old and continued painting until her death in 1996. Her paintings reflect the ceremonial and spiritual importance of her daily life and the totemic meaning of plants, animals, land and water. Kngwarreye's work portrays a deep understanding and connection with her Country, the Alhalkere which is also known as Alalgura. The painting Artlatyite Dreaming is a dynamic example one of her signature styles which through emplying a strong sense of gesture she depicts the intertwining underground networks of atnulare [finger yams] a common food source for Indigenous people living on Alhalkere.

Curatorial insightA senior member of the Anmatyerre community of Utopia, north-east of Alice Springs, Emily Kam Kngwarreye had a prolific and highly successful career as an artist. She was born about 1910 at a small soak known as Alhalkare/Alhkere, and knew a life before the appearance of white men in the desert. Cattle and sheep stations occupied much of her traditional country during her childhood, and she grew up as a stock worker on these stations and also as a domestic servant. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Kngwarreye, along with other women from Utopia, took up batik as a means of expressing traditional stories and designs on cloth, and her earliest works are painted dyed fabrics using the batik technique. Having begun painting on canvas in the summer of 1988/89, she developed distinctive skeletal linear formations, which were then overlaid with dots to form highly abstracted works. The lines disappeared in the early 1990s, when she began to use colour fields of dots raining across the canvas to signify merne (everything) – the plants and flowers of her desert country. From about 1994 she began more gestural work, using broad, dumped colour lines and brush-marks evoking awelye, body designs from women’s ceremonies. Occasionally she produced minimal monochrome works of vertical lines. In the period to 1996 she often used intertwining, meandering strokes as a stylistic device. Her final months were given to sweeping, gestural works. (Isaacs, Spirit Country, 1999)

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