Atnangker, Northern Territory, Australia born 1938
[Fabric length] c.1983
Utopia, Central Desert, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: textiles, batik on silk
The artists from Utopia community, comprised of mainly Anmatyerr and Alyawarr people, draw on traditional sites and stories for inspiration in their textile designs. This small community to the north—east of Alice Springs, has produced some of Australia’s most distinguished Indigenous artists, most significantly the late Emily Kam Kngwarray. Kngwarray, Gloria Tamerr Petyarr, and their lesser-known countrywomen, Nancy Petyarr and Nora Kemarr Moore, are all Anmatyerr people.
Gloria Tamerr Petyarr’s work No title, Nancy Petyarr’s Three bores and Nora Kemarr Moore’s Goofy bore all depict important Dreaming, or Tjukurrpa sites of the artists’ traditional country, incorporating icons of native flora and fauna in luminescent yellow and gold hues on deep brown, red and purple tableaux.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gloria Tamerr Petyarr was one of a number of women who started making batiks at Utopia in 1977. She later expanded her repertoire by experimenting with printmaking, drawing and painting to reveal her intimate knowledge and the designs of her country and culture.
Petyarr’s work reveals aspects of country, full of life and the movement of local native flora and fauna, and how it is translated to awelye, or women’s ceremonial body designs applied to their breasts and torsos. Petyarr regularly refers to the Mountain Devil Lizard, Small Brown Grass, Emu, Pencil Yam and Bean in her work. Her intricate paintings, with their saturation of fine dots and abstract linear work on canvas, mark her as one of Utopia’s most readily identifiable, diverse and innovative artists. And, like Emily Kam Kngwarray, she has pursued a successful career as a painter.
No titlec 1983 depicts the important Dreaming or Tjukurrpa sites in her country. The explosion of colour and movement hints at life amongst the desert plants there. The bountiful wildlife she depicts provides an insight into the flora and fauna used by her people in an often harsh and dramatic environment. The deep and bright reds reflect the desert sands, and the bushes, highlighted in orange and yellow hues, spread out in full bloom exposing an abundance of snakes, lizards, centipedes, birds and hairy grubs ready for gathering. Her deliberate use of white (the undyed areas of cloth) to highlight various patterns, appendages and shapes of animals reveals an intricacy of design that has become synonymous with batik work by Utopia women.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010