Born Alhalkere, Utopia, Northern Territory, Australia c.1910, died Alice Springs, Northern Territory 1996
Emily Kame Kngwarreye was a senior woman from the Anmatyerre community of Utopia, 230km north-east of Alice Springs.
In the late 1970s Kngwarreye was one of the first artists to work in batik, the women’s batik designs marking the start of contemporary art making in Utopia. Her first painting on linen was produced in the late 1980s and her work quickly generated widespread interest in the Australian and international art communities.
Layers of dots (initially tightly controlled but later broader and freer in style), lines and bright colours characterise Kngwarreye’s paintings. The country and body designs of the Anmatyerre women and her Dreaming stories provided Kngwarreye’s subject matter.
Kngwarreye’s work shifted stylistically throughout her painting career. The early works that featured layered dots over lines denoting topography and vegetation were followed by an extreme simplification of form inspired by women’s ceremonial body paint: thick parallel lines rendered in one or two colours. Her final series incorporated the vibrant colours and strong expressive gestures that emerged during her career.
Kngwarreye is one of Australia’s best known Aboriginal artists and her work has been collected throughout Australia and internationally. In 1995 she produced Big Yam Dreaming, a monumentally-scaled work commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria. Her work was exhibited posthumously at the Venice Biennale in 1997.
In 2008 Utopia: the genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye was exhibited in Osaka, Tokyo and Canberra.