Kathleen Petyarre

Kathleen Petyarre

Date of Birth: c. 1940 - d. 2018

Region: Utopia, Northern Territory / Adelaide, South Australia

Language: Anmatyerre / Alyawarre

An Anmatyerre speaker, born in c.1940, Kathleen Petyarre's traditional country is Atnangkere, an important soakage on the western boundary of Utopia station which, on account of the abundance of food it provided, was keenly sought out by neighbouring Eastern Arrernte groups.

Kathleen’s father had three wives, and several daughters, who in recent times have managed to hold on to the area as a group establishing a camp at Atneltyeye Boundry Bore. Kathleen's Dreamings include Women Hunting Emu with Dingo and Mountain Devil Lizard. Like most of the Utopia artists, she took up painting in 1988-9 as a part of CAAMA's Summer Project after previously working in batik. Kathleen is a talented batik artist. The Museum and Art Galleries of NT holds one her batik works. This is a large piece being 6x3 metres. Kathleen is currently producing some beautiful works of art using body paint designs.

Kathleen is a talented and focused artist who takes pride in her work and makes every effort to ensure that all of her work presented is of the highest quality. Her art is minimalist, done in a layering technique with very intricate dotting.

One definitive highlight and specialty of her present work rests in her ability to contour and form her dreaming paintings attuning this to her symbolism and ceremony. Kathleen has the innate capacity to meld together the earthy and timeless perceptions associated with her culture. This interaction is seen and felt through the rigorous high quality standard of work she sets for herself. The end result to this mastery is a transmutation of visual feeling onto her paintings.

Christine Nicholls writes “…In her works, Petyarre creates an optical flow that evokes a sense of motion. This she achieves by simulating the criss-crossing patternings of small Mountain Devil Lizard tracks. There is an architectural sensibility in Petyarre’s works, conveyed by her representations of the quasi-geometric variations and intersections of the tracks and trails that these tiny reptiles leave in the desert sands. Elucidating on her dynamic, reticulate imagery, Kathleen Petyarre says that “Mountain Devils, they walk around in family groups, between 3 and 10 of them, they all walk around the country together in [a] family group”. Interweaving and re-tracing each other’s tracks, the journeying of these little lizards become encoded, as ephemera, in the delicate sand designs and tracings that they leave in their collective wake. In turn, the lines and markings left by these diminutive lizards are transformed into the magnificent artworks that we see…”

(Christine Nicholls, Ripples on the Water - Lines in the Sand New Works by Joanne Currie Nalingu and Kathleen Petyarre, Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery)

Her work is exhibited widely across Australia and overseas. She is an artist in high demand. Private collectors from all around the world constantly seek after her work. In 2001 she featured in a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney where she was hailed as one of Australia’s most talented female artists.

Sadly, Kathleen passed away in November 2018.