- Emily Kngwarreye
Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910 – 3 September 1996) was an Australian
Aboriginal artist from the Utopia communityin the Northern Territory.
The combined monetary value of her works are more than those of any other Australian Aboriginal artist. Her 1995 painting "Earth's Creation" set a record in 2007 for sale price of an Aboriginal work, at AUD$1,056,000. [http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/05/23/1931554.htm] . Her major painting from the Final Series first exhibited at Gallery Savah in 1997 sold in 2008 for AUD$1,100,000.
Born in 1910, Kngwarreye did not take up
paintingseriously until she was nearly 80. She lived in the Anmatyerrelanguage group at Alhalkere in the Utopia community, about 200 km north east of Alice Springs. For much of her later life she was mostly known for her batikwork along with the rest of this community. Acrylic paintings were introduced to this community by the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association ( CAAMA) in 1988-89. An exhibition of some of the paintings of these artists' work organised by CAAMA was held in called "A Summer Project", where Kngwarreye's work got immediate attention from critics. The attention she received coincided with the worldwide art boom that occurred at this time.
Whereas the predominant Aboriginal style was based on the one developed with some assistance from art teacher
Geoffrey Bardonat the Papunyacommunity in 1971 of many similarly sized dots carefully lying next to each other in distinct patterns, Kngwarreye created her own original artistic style. This first style, in her paintings between 1989 and 1991, had many dots, sometimes lying on top of each other, of varying sizes and colours, as seen in "Wild Potato Dreaming" (1990).
These original paintings of different styles quickly went for high prices at
auction, with a turnover for the Utopia group of painters of more than $1 million in 1989-90.
Kngwarreye went through many different individual styles in her short career as a professional painter. In 1992, the dots began joining into lines with parallel horizontal and vertical
stripes, representing riversand terrain, in many different colours. She began using larger brushes than previously, her paintings now consist of much larger dots than the finer, more intricate work which she did when she started.
In 1993 she began painting patches of
colourand along with many dots which were like rings that were clear in the middle as seen in "Alaqura Profusion" (1993), made with a shaving brush that was called her 'dump dump' style which used very bright colours. The same style of rings of colour are also seen in "My Mothers Country" and "Emu Country" (1994).
The next year was an even more aesthetic and contemporary style, ending her 'colourist' phase, she began painting with plain stripes that crossed the canvas. These were at first thick stripes which often represented the lines of yam tracks as in "Yam Dreaming" (1994) and "Bush Yam" (1995); the strange growth patterns of the yam, a plant which was critical for survival in the desert, but very difficult to find. Later in 1995 her paintings start to resemble in some ways the American
Abstract Expressionistpaintings of Jackson Pollockwith many thinner lines that criss-crossed the canvas but still on the same theme, such as in "Yam Dreaming Awelye" (1995) and also in black and white Yam Dreaming paintings. Several weeks before her death she painted many canvases over a 3 day period in 1996, using a very thick brush such as in "Body Paint" (1996).
Yam tracks was one aspect which particularly featured in her works. The yam plant was an important source of
foodfor the Aboriginal people of the desert. She painted many paintings on this theme, with the first thing she often did at the start of a painting was to put down the yam tracking lines. This plant was especially significant for her as her middle name Kame relates to the yam plant, as meaning the yellow flowerof this plant that grows above the ground. She described her paintings as having lots of meaning to do with all the aspects of the community's life including the yam plants in one of the few well known criticisms of her own work, she said her paintings mean:
"Whole lot, that's all, whole lot, awelye, arlatyeye, ankerrthe, ntange, dingo, ankerre, intekwe, anthwerle and kame. That's what I paint: whole lot."
dreaming, pencil yam, mountain devil lizard, grassseed, dingo, emu, small plant emu food, green beanand yam seed")
The success and demand for Kngwarreye's paintings caused her many problems within thecommunity as she tried to maintain her individual identity. The myth of the woman in her 80s who had never been outside the central desert becoming a great painter was one reason for her popularity. She had in fact, been to Perth,
Adelaide, Sydney and Canberra, though this was only after she had become famous. There was much pressure from the white community for her to paint in a certain way, when they believed that one of her styles was more successful than others.
Eight paintings by Emily Kngwarreye in the
Sotheby's winter auction of 2000 put together were sold for $507,550, with "Awelye" (1989) selling for $156,500.
On May 23 2007 the painting "Earth's Creation" was sold for AUD1,056,000 at a Deutscher-Menzies’ Sydney auction, setting a new record an Aboriginal artwork. (Source: Sydney Morning Herald). [http://www.smh.com.au/news/arts/105m-painting-of-the-lot-breaks-record/2007/05/23/1179601488234.html] Mbantua Gallery was the successful bidder. [ [http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news.asp?sId=162243&ref=admin Arts Hub Australia)] ]
With success came unwanted attention. Many other inexperienced art dealers would go to her community to try to get a piece of the action, Kngwarreye once describing to a friend how she had "escaped from five or six carloads of 'wannabe' art dealers at Utopia". Her paintings were providing income for the whole community. She rarely spent any of the money she got from her works herself, or when she did, it was to buy gifts for friends and relatives. She was at some times supplying a
cara week to her community, in a society that did not believe in individual ownership, but the sharing of property with the group. Often she had to give up chances of retirement to please her kin and family, and continue to provide money.
According to Sotheby's Tim Klingender "the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye [w] as an example of an Aboriginal artist who was relentlessly pursued by carpetbaggers towards the end of her career and produced a large but inconsistent body of work. "We take about one in every 20 paintings of hers, and with those we look for provenances that we can be 100 per cent sure of," Klingender says." [ [http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/09/19/1063625217241.html?from=storyrhs Coslovich, Gabriella (2003) Aboriginal works and artful dodgers, September 20] ]
*Coventry, Sydney, 1990
*Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, 1990, 91, 92
*Hogarth Gallery, Sydney, 1991
*Gallery Savah, Sydney, 1994, 1996, 1997.
*Mbantua Gallery and Cultural Museum, 2007-08
*The National Art Center, Tokyo, 2008
*National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 2008Group Exhibitions:
Numerous group shows, including:
*1990: "Contemporary Aboriginal Art", Carpenter Centre for the Visual Arts, Harvard Uni. Massachusetts, USA
*1992: "Aboriginal Paintings from the Desert", touring Russia; "Crossroads, Towards a New Reality, Aboriginal Art from Australia", National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo
*1993: "Aratjara – Australian Aboriginal Art", touring Germany, London (Haywood Gallery) and Denmark (Louisiana regional gallery)
*1994: National Gallery of Victoria.
Australian Artist’s Creative Fellowship, Australia Council, 1992.
Australian Aboriginal art
* [http://mbantua.blogspot.com/2008/01/on-may-23-2007-mbantua-gallery-bid-for.html Mbantua Gallery buys Earth's Creation]
* [http://www.mbantua.com/museum_exhibition.php Emily Kngwarreye at Mbantua Cultural Museum]
* [http://www.nga.gov.au/exhibitions/Kngwarreye/index.html Emily Kngwarreye at the NGA]
* [http://www.aboriginalartdirectory.com/artists/emily+kngwarreye Emily Kngwarreye at the Aboriginal Art Directory]
* [http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/utopia_the_genius_of_emily_kame_kngwarreye/ Emily Kngwarreye at the National Museum of Australia]
*Hart, D. (1995), "Emily Kame Kngwarreye: Paintings from 1989-1995", Parliament House, Canberra
*Isaacs, J. (1998), "Emily Kngwarreye Paintings", Craftsman House, Smith, T. North Ryde, Sydney.
*Neale, M. (1998), "Emily Kame Kngwarreye: Paintings from Utopia", Macmillan Publishers, South Yarra, Victoria.
*Thomas, D. (1988), "Earth's Creation: The Paintings of Emily Kame Kngwarreye", Malakoff Fine Art Press, North Caulfield, Victoria.
*Neale, M. (2008), "Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye", National Museum of Australia Press, Canberra.
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