Awelye for Arnkerrthe (woman’s ceremony for mountain devil lizard Dreaming)

Born Atnangkere Soakage, Northern Territory, Australia 1938


Gloria Petyarre’s paintings relate to awelye (women’s ceremonies), bush food, medicines and Arnkerrthe (mountain devil lizard). Arnkerrthe travelled over Petyarre’s land creating all of the people, sacred sites, songs and other Dreamtime stories. Awelye for Arnkerrthe (1997) represents women’s ceremonial body paint designs associated with this story.

Petyarre first gained recognition in the late 1970s for the batiks she produced through the Utopia women’s batik workshop, and in the 1980s she began painting on canvas. Her early works consisted of strong bands of colour representing body paint patterns, and have subsequently become more abstracted as she has experimented with tonal variation and patterning.

In 1999 Petyarre was awarded the Wynne Prize for Landscape, and her work was the subject of a major survey exhibition at the Campbelltown City Art Gallery in 1998. Her work has also been represented in many significant group exhibitions, such as Aboriginal Women’s Exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales (1991); New Tracks Old Lands, Boston and touring United States (1992); Nangara, Aboriginal Gallery of Dreamings, Australia and touring internationally (1996–2006); Spirit Country, San Francisco and touring the United States (1999–2001); and Black Abstract, Woolloongabba Art Gallery and touring (2005–06).

Petyarre’s work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, all state galleries, many regional and university galleries, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Holmes à Court Collection, and several significant private collections.