Painted for Galerie Australis, South Australia, 1999
Kathleen Petyarre was born in c.1938. She is one of the famous Petyarre sisters, a group of seven sisters who have become well known Indigenous artists. Kathleen is one of the most well known and recognised sisters, as well as, Gloria Petyarre, Ada Bird Petyarre (passed away), Myrtle Petyarre (passed away), Nancy Kunoth Petyarre (passed away), Violet Petyarre and Jean Petyarre. Kathleen is from Atnangkere, an important water soakage found in the Utopia region in Central Australia and is from the Anmatyerre and Alyawarre language groups.
Kathleen was introduced to modern art mediums during a community project held at Utopia in 1977 which introduced the women of Utopia to silk batiks. This was such a great success that the silk batiks were exhibited around Australia and through Eire and Scotland. The whole collection of 88 silk batiks was later acquired by the Holmes a Court Collection. In 1988-1989 a further community project was held at Utopia where the women were introduced to acrylic paints and canvas, for many, this was just the right platform and an explosion of creativity ensued.
Kathleen’s artwork directly relates to her country and Dreamings which include women hunting, emu, dingo and mountain devil lizard. She is most well known for her paintings titled “Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming” and “My Country – Bush Seeds”. She typically uses traditional colours such as white, black and various hues of brown. Her paintings are minimalist and completed by layering and very intricate and precise dotting.
In 1996 Kathleen was awarded as the overall winner of Australia’s most prestigious art award in the 13th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. That same year she was also awarded the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Commission Art Award at their 3rd presentation.
Through 1997 and 1998 Kathleen was further recognised for her talent and won several other awards, she was also a finalist in the 15th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. Kathleen has a reputation as one of the most original Indigenous artists and the collectability of her paintings is confirmed by her status within the 40 most collectable Aboriginal artists of all time. Her paintings are regularly featured in national and international exhibitions through highly esteemed galleries and museums. Her artworks including her silk batiks are held in several collections worldwide.
In 2001 a book titled “Genius of Place” sharing the story of Kathleen Petyarre coincided with a solo exhibition of her paintings with the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Sydney. In this book Kathleen shares a detailed explanation of her Dreaming stories and the basis for her paintings. Over the last decade Kathleen’s artworks have taken a bolder style whereby she uses clusters of larger dots and stronger lines alongside her typical fine textures. These more recent works have had mixed reviews with some saying they are less refined whilst others consider it a logical artistic development towards a more powerful and dramatic mode of expression.
Kathleen Petyarre is one of the most sought-after living Aboriginal artists, she has been repeatedly nominated by the Australian Art Collector Magazine as being among the “Top 50 Most Collectable Artists in Australia” and the Australian Indigenous Art Market considers her the 34th most collectable artist.