Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Australian, 1916 - 1996
Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1916 – 1996) was adopted as a child by Jacob Jones, an important lawman in the Anmatyerre community. She spoke Eastern Anmatyerre and worked as a stock hand on various stations in the Alhalkere (Soakage Bore) area. Her line of work was evidence of her personality and fierce independence during a time when most aboriginal women were employed only for domestic duties.

Emily began her artistic career in batik on silk as did many of the artists at Utopia. However, she expanded her artistic works into painting with acrylics during the summer of 1988-89, “A Summer Project.” She enjoyed the transition of medium, because the painting permitted her to explore a variety of techniques.

Her painting reflected the foundation of her artistic career in batik with a layered transparency of color. The colors were built up in layers through many applications of the paint brush, and where they overlapped and met, she created a feeling of movement and depth.

A quick glance at her work, and one would assume it had modernistic leanings. However, the source of her art was based in the spiritual meaning from the traditions of her people. Early on she painted sacred aspects of her culture, but the tribal elders disapproved. Gradually she moved the subject of her paintings to include her culture as a whole and expanded the subjects to include a very broad picture of the land and how it supported her people. She embraced a vision of myth; the seeds, flowers, wind and sand of her land. She held an appreciation for “all things else, the whole lot.”

Emily’s artwork shows life and movement. The colors come together and change as if communicating messages out into the universe. With her subjects on canvas and paint, her art went beyond her culture and traditions to greet the world.

She was awarded the prestigious Australian Artists Creative Fellowship in 1992 and has been selected for the following collections and exhibitions: Contemporary Aboriginal Art: The Robert Holmes a Court Collection which toured the United states in 1990, Aboriginal Women’s Art at the Art Gallery in New South Wales, Aratjara in 1993-94, Stories in 1995.

She represented Australia (posthumously) in the Venice Biennale in 1997, and her work toured Australia in 1997-98.
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