Emily Kame Kngwarreye was born around 1910 at Alhalkere (Soakage
Bore). Emily is an Eastern Anmatyerre speaker and one of the senior
artists of the Utopian Art Movement. She was adopted by Jacob Jones an
important lawman in the Anmatyerre community and worked as a stock hand
on pastoral properties in this area, showing her forceful
independence. At this time women were only employed for domestic
Emily, like many other women at Utopia moved
into painting with acrylics during the summer of 1988-89 with 'A summer
Project'. Emily moved happily into the new medium from her work in
batik on silk as painting allowed her to explore techniques and vision
with her artistic expression. Her painting reflects the layered
transparency of batik, but her colour is translucent and has been built
up through many touches of paint which overlap and meet to create an
illusion of depth and movement.
Although her works relate to the modern art
tradition, this resemblance is purely visual. The emphasis on Emily's
paintings is on the spiritual meaning, based in the tradition of her
people. At first she painted aspects of her culture that is sacred,
falling foul of the tribal elders. That is when she moved into painting
her culture as a whole. Though many Aboriginal paintings are focused on
Dreamings, Emily chose to present a very broad picture of the land and
how it supports their way of life. These images embrace the whole life
story of myth, seeds, flowers, wind, sand and 'everything'.
"Whole lot, that's the whole lot. Awelye (my
Dreamings), Alatyeye (pencil yam), Arkerrthe (mountain devil lizard),
Ntange (grass seed), Tingu (a Dreamtime pup), Ankerre (emu), Intekwe (a
favorite food of emus, a small plant), atnwerle (green bean), and Kame
(yam seed). That's what I paint; the whole lot."
The form that these take in her paintings are
lively and moving. Colours merge and change form to communicate a
strong cosmological message. She has gone from particular subjects to
show abstraction of her complete world, moving her beyond her cultural
Emily is one of the most successful artists to
come out of Utopia and is arguably amongst the most important
Australian painters of the last decade. Emily, in her 80th year was
described by the art collector, Michael Hollows, as being one of the
most unusual and graphic of all Australia's renowned Aboriginal artists.
Her work is featured in all Australian state
galleries and most reputable private collections in Australia, and is
seen regularly in exhibitions and collections around the world. A host
of solo exhibitions in the 90’s has provided Emily with a significant
plateau of fame, exceeding that of most Aboriginal artists of her time.
Her first solo exhibition was held at Utopia Art Sydney in 1990, and
with various others following at: Hogarth Gallery Sydney, Gallery
Gabrielle Pizzi Melbourne, Rebecca Hossack Gallery London, Austral
Gallery St Louis U.S.A., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Plimsoll
Gallery Centre for the Arts Hobart, Perth Institute of Contemporary
Arts, Lake Oswego Centre for the Arts U.S.A., Union of Soviet Artists
Gallery Moscow, Museum of Ethnographic Art St.
Petersburg, Lowe Art Museum University of
Miami, Nogazaka Arthall Tokyo, State Ukrainian Museum of Art Kiev,
National Museums of Modern Art Kyoto and Tokyo, Museum of Modern Art
Minsk, Bishop Museum Hawaii and many, many more prestigious venues. In
1993 she won the Australian Artists Creative fellowship without even
applying for it. In 1999 a retrospective of the artists work traveled
to all major state galleries ‘Alhalkere: Paintings from Utopia,’ where
comparisons were drawn with the great French Impressionist Claude Monet
or Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. In 1999
Emily’s work was included in ‘United Nations’, New York, and in
2001-2004 included in ‘Mythology and Reality: Contemporary Aboriginal
Desert Art from the Gabrielle Pizzi Collection,’ Palazzo Bricherasio
Turin, Italy; AAM Utrecht, Netherlands; Jerusalem Centre for the
Performing Arts, Israel; SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney; Heide Museum of
Modern Art, Melbourne Australia.
Collections: Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Commission, Museums and art Galleries of the Northern
Territory, Darwin; Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs; Artbank, Sydney;
Jinta Desert Art Gallery Sydney, Aboriginal Art Galleries of Australia
Melbourne, Aboriginal Desert Art Gallery Alice Springs, Art Gallery of
New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia; Auckland City Art
Gallery New Zealand, Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria; Coventry Collection
Sydney, Donald Kahn Collection University of Miami, Museum of
Victoria, Melbourne; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; The
Holmes a Court Collection, The Kelton Foundation; Santa Monica U.S.A.,
University of Sydney Union, and the University of New South Wales,
Sydney; Vatican Collection, Italy.
Emily frequently traveled to our Alice Springs
gallery to paint and was treated as part of the family. The need for
money for herself and her large family kept Emily painting profoundly
until she passed away in September 1996.
Emily's gift as an artist has touched many
people but it was her personal presence that left the greatest impact.
The Hollow family had the privilege of knowing Emily on a personal
level, being able to watch her paint and talk to her about her own
opinions of fame.
On the 2nd of September 1996 Emily passed away,
a great loss to the art world and those people who knew her personally
or through her paintings.