Kathleen Petyarre traveled as a child with her extended family around her father’s and grandfather’s country Amangkere, about 275 kilometers north-east of Alice Springs (NT), developing an
encyclopedic knowledge of its flora, fauna, rock holes, soaks, and other significant sites. Petyarre estimates that she would have been about seven or eight when the family first came across a white person. In the late 1970s, with other Anmatyerre and some Alyawerre women from the Utopia region, she began learning batik techniques at an adult education course. About the same time she became a key claimant in a claim for Anmatyerre freehold title over the Utopia pastoral lease. Since then Petyarre’s artistic career has blossomed. Working full-time as a professional artist, she has won several major prizes and commissions, including the 1996 NATSlAA and the 1997 Visy Board Art Prize. She was commissioned for the John Mc Caughey Memorial Art Prize in 1997. She also has had many solo and group exhibitions in Australia and overseas.In 1997 Petyarre’s estranged, white, de facto husband claimed he had painted the lion’s share of Strorm in Atnangkere Country, her winning NATSlAA painting.,’ His claims were investigated by the board of MAGNT, which eventually cleared Petyarre’s name.
One of seven sisters, all of whom are artists, Petyarre is the senior custodian of the arnkerrth (thorny devil) Dreaming. A small, timid lizard with alarming-looking spikes on its head and back, arnkerrth typically moves in a quasi-circular fashion leaving an exquisite pattern of tiny, not-quite-concentric tracks. These have become something of a trademark in Petyarre’s work. Petyarre recreates the journeys of arnkerrth through sandstorms, over sand dunes, across mountains, through watercourses, and even underground. The creature survives in harsh terrain largely because of its modest dietary and water requirements and its chameleon-like camouflage. This is reflected in Petyarre’s use of a limited palette of colours. In some paintings a central square or rectangle represents the initiation ground a section of which is reserved for women’s initiations. There is, therefore, a secret-sacred, gender-specific dimension to these paintings, which the artist deliberately obscures by means of an elaborate dot cover. Petyarre now mostly works in Adelaide. When she returns home she spends time schooling younger Anmatyerre women in the correct preparation of canvases and painting techniques. Her painstakingly precise application of tiny dots means that each painting can take days, sometimes weeks to complete. In her persistence and patience Kathleen Petyarre resembles her Dreaming ancestor, arnkerrth, more than a little. *
* The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art & Culture, Kleinhert, Sylvia & Neale, Margo, Oxford Press ISBN 019550649 9
1996 Joint Second Prize, Open Award Category – The Third National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Heritage Commission Art Award, Canberra, ACT., Australia.
1996 Overall Winner of the Telstra 13th National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Darwin, NT., Australia.
1997 Overall Winner of the Visy Board Art Prize, the Barossa Vintage Festival Art Show, Nurioopta, SA.
1998 Finalist, 1998 Seppelts Contemporary Art Award – Visual Art Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW Australia.
1998 Winner, People’s Choice Award, 1998 Seppelts Contemporary Art Award, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW., Australia.
1997 Art Gallery of South Australia, Desert Artists-in-Residence, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia,
1997 Museum Puri Lukisan, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, June.
1996 “Kathleen Petyarre – Storm in Aknangkerre Country” Alcaston House Gallery, Melbourne, Vic., Australia.
1998 Arnkerrthe – My Dreaming, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne, Vic., Australia, 24 July – 15 August.
1999 Recent Paintings by Kathleen Petyarre, Coo-ee Gallery, Mary Place, Sydney, NSW., Australia, 4 – 21
2000 Landscape: Truth and Beauty, Recent Paintings by Kathleen Petyarre, Alcaston Gallery, November
l 6th – December 6th
2000 Kathleen Petyarre, Retrospective Exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW.,
9th May – 22nd July.
2001 Genius of Place. The work of Kathleen Petyarre. Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW.,
Australia, May – 22nd July.
2002 Gallerie Commines, Paris, France
1997 The John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Vic., Australia.
Paintings Collection of H. M. Queen Elizabeth 11 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, ACT, Australia
The Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth, WA, Australia.
The Museum & Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT., Australia.
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, S.A. Australia.
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide, S.A. Australia
The Kluge-Rhue Collection, University of West Virginia, VA, USA.
The Kelton Foundation, Los Angeles, CA., USA.
The Levi-Kaplan Collection, Seattle, WA., USA
A.T.S.I.C. Collection, Adelaide, S.A. Australia.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Vic. Australia.
Museum Puri Lukisan, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
University of South Australia Art Museum, Adelaide, S.A. Australia.
Riddoch Regional Art Gallery, Mount Gambier, S.A. Australia.
Edith Cowan University, Perth, W.A. Australia.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide.
Collection de Musee des Arts d’Afrique et d’Oceanie, Paris, France.
Peabody – Essex Anthropology and Ethnology Museum, Harvard University, Salem, Mass., USA.
The Art Gallery of Western Australian, Perth, WA, Australia.