Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ann Lewis AO, 2009
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Emily Kame Kngwarreye is one of Australia’s most celebrated artists. Along with a number of other senior Aboriginal artists, her career began late in life. During an eight-year period from 1989 until 1996, she produced over 3000 paintings.
The stories depicted during these eight years related to her Dreaming and included Arlatyeye (pencil yam), Arkerrthe (mountain devil lizard), Ntange (grass seed), Tingu (a Dreamtime pup), Ankerre (emu), Intekwe (a favourite food of emus, a small plant), Atnwerle (green bean), Kame (yam seed) and lastly Awelye (Kngwarreye’s Dreaming), which the works Untitled (Awelye) (#62, 65, 66, 67, 69, 70) (1995) refer to.
Ceremony represents an important theme in the artist’s paintings, in particular women’s body designs and markings that were fluidly composed onto canvas. These lines can also be related to Awelye (Kngwarreye’s Dreaming) and the physical expression of Awelye where body paint is placed onto the skin for ceremonial purposes. This expression releases the spiritual power that maintains nature’s fertility and hardiness. ‘Awelye’ also has a broader meaning that describes the range of content of a ceremony and a body of knowledge. Thus, these simple lines are much more than just stylised body paint. In fact, there are many other references, including the lines left behind in the sand and cuts made in the upper arm, as a sign of sorrow after a death.
Kngwarreye later began painting geometric forms which represented the flora and fauna of Utopia. She over painted her works with bold dotting or repetitive lines. Her latter painting abstracted these underlying designs further, until just her famous “dump dump” dot style and dichromatic designs evolved.
Keith Munro (curator), Statement of significance, Object file note, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2009
b.Circa 1910 d.1996
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, in a short but brilliant career, carved out a deserved reputation as one of Australia’s most important artists. From birth she lived on her Country, Alhalkere, in the remote desert north east of Alice Springs. Her unique art encompasses the breadth, substance, history and meaning of her precious land, which was her enduring subject.Learn more