Gloria Petyarre creates vibrant, abstract images that are distinguished by their variety and complexity, while remaining firmly rooted in her country Arlperre and the powerful Dreamtime stories that she inherited from her father. For 38 years she has been renowned as an artist, initially for her work with batik on silk, and for the past 28 years to great acclaim, for her acrylic on linen creations. She is now considered to be the best-selling living female Aboriginal artist.
The leaf or "Bush Medicine" series, depicting the rushing movement of leaves with terse rhythmic brush strokes, has been heralded as one of her most successful stylistic developments to date. Here she utilises close tonal values of colour together with the rhythmic patterning of her brush strokes to capture the movement of a tree's leaves as seen blowing in the wind. The leaves of this tree are an important bush medicine, which are gathered by women in the Arlperre country and mixed with animal fat before being rubbed directly onto the skin.
Gloria’s work continues to be sought on the international market. Her beautiful 'Mountain Devil' painting, commissioned by Delmore Gallery, was bought into the permanent collection of Le Louvre, Paris, in 1994, and now resides in Musée du quai Branly. In 1999, Gloria won The Wynne prize for landscape (the first to be awarded to an Aboriginal artist).
Gloria paints her central Dreaming of Arnkerrthe - the Thorny or Mountain Devil Lizard, a small lizard with sharp spikes on its head and back that normally roams over a wide area. It moves in a quasi-circular fashion, leaving an exquisite pattern of tiny, not-quite-concentric tracks; with its travels through the Petyarre women’s Country depicted regularly in her artworks. The Mountain Devil Dreaming is connected to a large stretch of country called Atnangkere, it is country that is constantly changing, as does the chameleon-like lizard, from place to place and over time. Gloria has responsibility for this very individual species. In ceremony, she dramatically recalls through song and dance, those characteristics of the mythological mountain devil woman that made her an individual and tough survivor.
'Mountain Devil Awelye' was painted for Delmore Gallery at Uluru in October 2015, when Gloria, her sister Violet Petyarre and niece, Gracie Pwerle, visited Uluru for the first time. Gloria was invited by the manager of the Mulgara Gallery, at Sails in the Desert, Uluru, to paint on site at their current exhibition. Several hundred people were fascinated to be able to watch this renowned artist create this striking black and white piece (in a new style for Gloria). Don Holt recalls chatting with Gloria as she was painting this stunning work, in the shadow of Uluru. Gloria felt very much at home there and mused to Don, whilst singing, about the comparison between the changing colours of Uluru with the changing colours of her chameleon-like mountain devil. The lines on this canvas are derived from the body paint design applied as part of the “awelye” (ceremony).