Emily Kame Kngwarreye (c. 1910–1996), affectionately known as “Emily,” was a revered elder of the Utopia region and one of the most celebrated artists in Australian history. She was born around 1910 in Alhalkere on the edge of the Utopia cattle station in Anmatyerre Country, approximately 250 km northeast of Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory. One of the last generations of Indigenous elders born and raised in a Country devoid of impinging settler influence, Emily grew up acutely attuned to the land’s riches, its seasonality, and her place within its cycles.
Throughout the brief eight-year span before her death, she painted freely and prolifically, moving through an astonishing range of styles and expression identified mainly with women’s ritual activities. Her early dot paintings drew on her experience with traditional batik fabric production; over time, her paintings became more and more gestural, reduced in their detail and liberated in their formal qualities. When asked to describe her inspirations, Emily’s response was consistent: “It’s everything.” In other words, each painting represents her entire culture, encapsulating her intimate relationship with “Country,” the physical land and the spirits that inhabit it, as well as the people and their traditions.
Emily has been the subject of several museum surveys in Australia and Japan, and her work featured prominently in the 56th Biennale di Venezia in 2015.
Desert Painters of Australia Part II
With Works from the Collection of Steve Martin and Anne Stringfield
July 26–September 6, 2019