Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Emily Kame Kngwarreye was born around 1910 at Alhalkere (Soakage Bore). Emily is an Eastern Anmatyerre speaker and one of the senior artists of the Utopia-n Art Movement. She was adopted by Jacob Jones an important lawman in the Anmatyerre community and worked as a stock hand on pastoral properties in this area, showing her forceful independence. At this time women were only employed for domestic duties.

Emily, like many other women at Utopia moved into painting with acrylics during the summer of 1988-89 with ‘A summer Project’. Emily moved happily into the new medium from her work in batik on silk as painting allowed her to explore techniques and vision with her artistic expression. Her painting reflects the layered transparency of batik, but her colour is translucent and has been built up through many touches of paint which overlap and meet to create an illusion of depth and movement.

Although her works relate to the modern art tradition, this resemblance is purely visual. The emphasis on Emily’s paintings is on the spiritual meaning, based in the tradition of her people. At first she painted aspects of her culture that is sacred, falling foul of the tribal elders. That is when she moved into painting her culture as a whole. Though many Aboriginal paintings are focused on Dreamings, Emily chose to present a very broad picture of the land and how it supports their way of life. These images embrace the whole life story of myth, seeds, flowers, wind, sand and ‘everything’.

“Whole lot, that’s the whole lot. Awelye (my Dreamings), Alatyeye (pencil yam), Arkerrthe (mountain devil lizard), Ntange (grass seed), Tingu (a Dreamtime pup), Ankerre (emu), Intekwe (a favorite food of emus, a small plant), atnwerle (green bean), and Kame (yam seed). That’s what I paint; the whole lot.”

The form that these take in her paintings are lively and moving. Colours merge and change form to communicate a strong cosmological message. She has gone from particular subjects to show abstraction of her complete world, moving her beyond her cultural roots.

Emily is one of the most successful artists to come out of Utopia and is arguably amongst the most important Australian painters of the last decade. Emily, in her 80th year was described by the art collector, Michael Hollows, as being one of the most unusual and graphic of all Australia’s renowned Aboriginal artists.

Her work is featured in all Australian state galleries and most reputable private collections in Australia, and is seen regularly in exhibitions and collections around the world. A host of solo exhibitions in the 90’s has provided Emily with a significant plateau of fame, exceeding that of most Aboriginal artists of her time.

Emily’s gift as an artist has touched many people but it was her personal presence that left the greatest impact. The Hollow family had the privilege of knowing Emily on a personal level, being able to watch her paint and talk to her about her own opinions of fame.

On the 2nd of September 1996 Emily passed away, a great loss to the art world and those people who knew her personally or through her paintings.

Highest price at auction – $2,100,000 including BP

Major collections:
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra
ATSIC Collection, Canberra
The Araluen Centre of Arts and Entertainment, Alice Springs, NT
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Artbank, Sydney
Museum of Victoria, Melbourne
Campbelltown City Art Gallery, Sydney
Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria
University of New South Wales, Sydney
University of Sydney Union, Sydney
University of Wollongong Art Museum, NSW
University of New England, NSW
Victoria University of Technology, Melbourne
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
Allen, Allen & Hemsley, Sydney
BP Australia
Transfield Collection, Sydney
The Holmes a Court Collection, Heytesbury
Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand
The Kasumi Co. Collection, Japan
Kelton Foundation, Los Angeles, USA
K.L.M. Royal Dutch Airlines, Amsterdam, Holland
Chartwell Collection, New Zealand
Donald Kahn Collection, Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, USA
The Vatican Collection, Rome, Italy
Numerous significant private collections in Australia and overseas

Selected solo exhibitions:
1990: First solo exhibition, Utopia Art Sydney
1990-97: Utopia Art Sydney
1990: Coventry Gallery, Sydney
1990-93: Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
1991, 93, 95: Hogarth Galleries, Sydney
1991: Eastern Desert Art, Brisbane
1994: Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London
1994, 96, 97: Chapman Gallery, Canberra
1995, 96: William Mora Galleries, Melbourne
1995, 97: DACOU Aboriginal Gallery, Adelaide
1995: Parliament House, Canberra
1996: Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane
1996: Framed Gallery, Darwin
1996: Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
1997: Robert Steele Gallery, New York
1998-99: Major survey exhibition ‘Emily Kame Kngwarreye “Alhalkere” Paintings from Utopia’, Queensland Art Gallery; The Art Gallery of NSW; National Gallery of Victoria

Selected Group Exhibitions:
1987: Utopia Women’s Batik Group, in Australia and abroad
1988: ‘Contemporary Aboriginal Art’, Utopia Art Sydney
1988: ‘A hanging Relationship’, SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney
1989: ‘Art from Utopia’, Austral Gallery, St Louis, USA
1989: ‘Mythscapes: Aboriginal Art of the Desert’, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
1989: ‘Aboriginal Art from Utopia’, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
1990: ‘Contemporary Aboriginal Art from the Robert Holmes a Court Collection’, travelling to Boston, USA; Minneapolis, USA; Oregon, USA; Missouri, USA; Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
1991: ‘Aboriginal Women’s Exhibition’, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
1991: ‘Through Women’s Eyes’, ATSIC travelling exhibition
1993-94: ‘Flash Pictures: by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists’, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
1993-94: travelling to numerous state and regional galleries in NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania
1994: ‘Power of the Land: Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art’, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
1995: ‘Place and Perception: New Acquisitions, Parliament House Art Collection’, Parliament House, Canberra
1996: ‘Dots’, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
1996: ‘Spirit and Place’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
1996: Eye of the Storm: Eight Contemporary Indigenous Australian Artists’, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
1997: ‘Fluent’ Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Judy Watson’, Venice Biennale, Italy
2009: Size Matters, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney, NSW
2018: Earth’s Creation, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney, NSW

Awards and Recognition

2009 Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine
2005 Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine
2000 Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine
1992 Australian Artists Creative Fellowship