Emily Kame Kngwarreye
Emily Kame Kngwarreye is regarded by many as Australia's most important Aboriginal artist. She has been recognised as one of the most successful artists ever to come out of Australia, after achieving worldwide fame and recognition. Her artworks, characterised by their remarkable painterly qualities, skilful use of colour and conceptual originality caused her influence to extend well beyond the previous reach of contemporary Aboriginal art, attracting interest locally and internationally.
Across a short but prolific period of production from 1988 to her death in 1996, Emily completed approximately 3400 paintings in testament to the Dreamings, which perpetuated her life force, leaving the world her brilliant legacy.
Emily Kngwarreye painted glorious epics of amazing spontaneity and energy, fearless in her use of the wide range of colours supplied to her by Delmore Gallery. After decades of responsibility to her Dreamings (as an Anmatyerre senior ceremonial leader, the marks and patterns she used in her artworks often related to traditional sand and body painting) her creativity found enduring expression on canvas. She was always inspired by her powerful connection to Country and her emu and yam Dreamings, often beginning her earlier paintings with yam lines or emu tracks, then painting over with deep layers of dots in glorious colours. Surrounded by friends who were doing their own Dreaming paintings, Emily would often sing and talk of what she was creating on the canvas before her.
Emily’s artworks drew on her experience of working with batik, employing the dots in mesmerising, rhythmic patterns, and adopting an aerial perspective, viewing the land from above. However, rather than adopting this bird’s eye view for recording ancestral tracks and showing that which lies beneath the surface, such as waterholes, she used it as a strategy to allow the beholder to dissolve into the landscape and the gestural energy paths left by her performance on the canvas.
Although her canvases frequently denote the contours of her country and the cycle of the seasons, from the parched dry to welcome floods and the resulting regeneration of the vegetation, the pattern of the seeds and the shape of the perennial herbaceous vines of the yams, as well as spiritual forces, to many of her non-Indigenous audience, she was perceived as an abstract artist (Grishin, 2013).
Emily made dramatic shifts in styles during her career, and she rarely looked back once she took up a new theme – overtime, yam lines and emu tracks became submerged in a floral landscape that exploded in an exciting range of colour.
Her art, while rooted in her ancient Country of Alkahere, changed with the seasons and was driven by the force of nature. In her work is to be seen, the visual expression of her lived experience as a part of her Country. The Emily Kngwarreye paintings for sale through Delmore Gallery each contain the hallmarks for which Emily was revered, the expansive shifting tonalities, and free-floating dots veiling linear nuances, applied with the innate mastery of one of Australia’s great colourists.
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