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Sold at Auction: Kathleen Petyarre



Kathleen Petyarre is an eminent Australian Aboriginal artist, known for her paintings displaying an extremely refined layering technique with intricate dotting. Her art refers directly to her country and her Dreamings, concepts that may be difficult to grasp for the non-Aboriginal viewer. However, the vastness of the country can be clearly felt in the landscapes of Petyarre's paintings, which have occasionally been compared to the works of American Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, and even to those of J.M.W. Turner. They have been described as: "magisterial works that can be likened to symphonic compositions" (Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA). Petyarre's painstaking and virtuosic method of applying countless dots with kebab sticks of various sizes means she typically spends many days, sometimes weeks, on one canvas and has thus avoided the dangers of overproduction, widespread in Aboriginal art.

Kathleen Petyarre was born at Atnangkere, an important water soakage for Aboriginal people on the western boundary of Utopia Station, 150 miles north-east of Alice Springs in Australia's Northern Territory. She belongs to the Alyawarre/Eastern Anmatyerre clan and speaks Eastern Anmatyerre, with English as her second language. Kathleen, with her daughter Margaret and her sisters, settled at Iylenty (Mosquito Bore) at Utopia Station, near her birthplace. She started working in batik in 1977 when an adult education instructor, Jenny Green, arrived in Utopia and organised batik workshops. Kathleen Petyarre lives at Utopia Station to this day, but now also spends part of the year at her residence in Adelaide.

In 1996 she was the winner of the 13th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. Controversy arose in 1997 when Petyarre's estranged partner of ten years, Ray Beamish, claimed that he had had a hand in the execution of the winning painting. This controversy, which shook the Aboriginal art market at the time, resulted in much stricter emphasis being put on the documentation of authorship in Aboriginal paintings. Her name was eventually cleared, and she retained her award.

Her considerable reputation as one of the most original indigenous artists has since been confirmed nationally and internationally by her regular inclusion in exhibitions at the most reputed museums and galleries. A book about her art, ' 'Genius of Place' ', was published in 2001 in conjunction with a solo exhibition of her works at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, and her paintings can be found in public and private collections all over the world. Her work has been selected, along with just a handful of Aboriginal artists, for inclusion in the permanent collection of the new Mus?e du quai Branly in Paris.

The last few years, from about 2003-2004 onwards, have seen a bolder style emerge, with clusters of larger dots and stronger lines alongside the very fine textures for which the artist is known. While this style has been decried in some quarters as being less refined, it has also been hailed as being a logical artistic development towards a more powerful and dramatic mode of expression, "perhaps more abstract, certainly more modern in its technicality and presentation".

Kathleen Petyarre is one of the most sought-after living Aboriginal artists. She has been repeatedly nominated by the influential journal Australian Art Collector as being among 'the 50 most collectable artists in Australia'. She has several sisters who are also well-known artists, among them Gloria, Violet, Myrtle and Jeannie Petyarre. Kathleen's works consistently show the highest degree of innovation, and are in great demand and likely to fetch the highest prices at auction.


1996 Overall Winner of the Telstra 13th National Aboriginal & Torres Straight Islander Art Award, Darwin NT
1997 Overall Winner of the Visy Board Art Prize, the Barossa Vintage Festival Art Show, Nurioopta SA
1998 Finalist Seppelts Contemporary Art Award - Visual Art Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney NSW
1998 Winner People's Choice Awards, Seppelts Contemporary Art Award, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, NSW.
Solo Exhibitions
1996 "Kathleen Petyarre - Storm in Aknangkerre Country" Alcaston House Gallery, Melbourne Vic
1998 Arnkerrthe - My Dreaming, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne Vic, 24th July - 15th August
1999 Recent Paintings By Kathleen Petyarre, Mary Place, Sydney NSW, 4 - 21 November,
2000 Landscape: Truth and Beauty, recent Paintings by Kathleen Petyarre, Alcaston Gallery Melbourne Vic
2000 Kathleen Petyarre, Retrospective Exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, 2001 Genius of Place, The Work of Kathleen Petyarre, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney NSW.

Holmes a Court Collection
Mus?e des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oc?anie, Quai Branly, Paris, France
Mus?e des Confluences, Lyon, France
Kunsthaus - Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg, Austria
Aboriginal Art Museum, Utrecht, The Netherlands
The Vroom Collection, The Netherlands
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, USA
Kelton Foundation, Los Angeles, California, USA
Harvard University (Peabody-Essex Anthropology and Ethnology Museum), Salem, Massachusetts, USA
Levi-Kaplan Collection, Seattle, Washington, USA
Kluge-Rhue Collection, University of West Virginia VA, USA
Museum Puri Lukisan, Ubud, Indonesia
National Gallery of Australia , Canberra ACT, Australia
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney NSW, Australia
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide SA, Australia
The Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth WA, Australia
The Museum & Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin NT, Australia
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide SA, Australia
A.T.S.I.C. Collection, Adelaide SA, Australia
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne VIC, Australia
University of South Australia Art Museum, Adelaide SA, Australia
Edith Cowan University, Perth WA, Australia
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