Indigenous Australian art gallery est. 1989.

Kathleen Ngale (Kngale) Biography and CV

Kathleen Ngale Portrait Delmore Gallery

Kathleen Ngale (Kngale) (born c. 1934, Anmatyere) has been acclaimed as one of the most significant and exciting contemporary Aboriginal Artists in Australia, creating memorable and dazzling artworks. She has been painting on linen for 27 years. As her work has grown in confidence and power, she has become increasingly recognised by national and international collectors and galleries alike. In 2000, she was exhibited by Stephan Jacob in Paris, followed in 2001 by Songlines Gallery, San Francisco. She has taken part in over twenty exhibitions over the past ten years and is represented in the collections of both The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Kathleen has been a finalist in the Telstra Art Award and is now recognised by important private collectors around the world.

From her earliest childhood days in the 1950's, Kathleen Ngale watched as her mother and aunties painted their bodies during the women’s ceremonies. The mixing and application of ochre-based paint was therefore naturally familiar to her and it was very much a normal part of life in Arlperre Country. After anointing each other with emu oil the women paint their bodies with ochre. This is an enjoyable, elaborate ceremony where the preparation is very much part of the ritual. The painting and decorating of their bodies takes up a significant part of ceremonial time - the dancing then begins, led by the appropriate 'senior woman'. Like Kathleen, young girls will have watched the older women from birth, absorbing and learning through observation. For these Aboriginal women, ceremony is a very important part of the ongoing fertility and productivity of their country. And, because Aboriginal women have continued to practice ceremony without fail, the Anmatyerre women are still strongly connected to their 'Country.'

In the late 1970s, Kathleen, now seventy years old, as well her sisters Polly (80) and Angeline (63) had the opportunity to translate their cultural heritage in a new medium, the batik - initially instructed by Yipati, a Pitjantjatjara artist from Ernabella and Suzie Bryce, a craft instructor. Later, Utopia-based art workers, Jenny Green and Julia Murray taught the women of Utopia the skills of the Javanese-originated batik, assisting the artists in both interpretation and production of textile works on fabric. During this inspirational period, the Kngale sisters created some of the most beautiful works on both silk and cotton, some of which were collected by Delmore Gallery. Certainly the next ten years of batik production, accompanied by the use of both new and vibrant colours, gave the Kngale sisters enormous confidence, which was demonstrated when they began painting on canvas in 1989. Through her participatory role in the powerful ceremonial traditions Kathleen grew up with, she (and her sisters) gained strength and maintained confidence in both themselves and their art. When art lovers and collectors flew great distances to land in the magnificent country of Delmore Station, they came seeking an experience that would allow them some personal contact with the artist whose work they were collecting. During these times, an artist such as Kathleen Kngale enjoyed a wonderful sense of respect and appreciation for her Dreaming and her paintings.

Kathleen’s main dreaming is that of the bush plum or Wild Plum (Arnwekety), a prized food source for Aboriginal women in Arlperre in Central Australia and one which ripens between Christmas and May. One way of interpreting her paintings is to view them as a visual calendar, exploring the impact of the changing seasons on the Bush Plum plant. Her art captures the changing colours of these small berries as they ripen from yellow and orange to pink and purple. In her paintings she also traces the journeys of the women in search of the Bush Plum and pays homage to the spiritual forces of the ancestors who created the landforms — everything that exists around them and codified their patterns of behaviour.

Usually titled Wild Plum, the imagery and colours of her works touch on all aspects of the Bush Plum plant. She has explained the changing colours of the seasons, the sacred topography and the process of travel through her country as being manifested visually, abstract yet tangible, within each vibrant collection of colour and dots.

Kathleen Ngale (or Kngale as it was originally spelled for the last 30 years) was born in 1940. She belongs to Arlperre country in the Anmatyerre tribe, which covers several hundred kilometres from the Sandover River on Utopia Station, Northern Territory, across the Stuart Highway towards Napperby Station in the west. She comes from an illustrious tradition of famous Anmatyerre artists such as Clifford Possum, who painted for Papunya Tula, and Emily Kame Kngwarreye who, like Kathleen, primarily painted for Delmore Gallery. Kathleen belongs to a family of artists, which includes an older sister, Polly Ngale (Kngale) and a younger sister Angeline Ngale (Kngale). Delmore Gallery represents all three sisters who paint in individual and distinctive styles and have attracted widespread recognition.

View Kathleen Ngale (Kngale) paintings

View Professor Sasha Grishin's essay about Kathleen Ngale



National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
QAGOMA, Brisbane
Donald Holt Collection
Janet Holt Collection



2018  Beyond the Veil, Olsen Gruin Gallery, New York, USA
2017  Utopia: the artists of Delmore Downs, Yaama Ganu Gallery, Moree
2014  Metro Gallery, Victoria, in conjunction with Delmore Gallery, Northern Territory
2010  Spring, Kate Owen Gallery, Rozelle
2009  JGM Art, London
2008  Emily Kngwarreye and her Legacy, Tokyo
2008  Power of Place, Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute
2008  Utopia and Beyond, Barry Stern Gallery
2007  Arts d’Australie, Stephane Jacob, Paris
2007  Desert Song, Brush with Art Festival, Prairie Hotel, Parachilna
2007  Patterns of Power - Art From the Eastern Desert, Simmer on the Bay, Sydney
2006  Senior Women of Utopia, GalleryG, Brisbane
2006  Lauraine Diggins exhibition, London
2005  Neville Keating Gallery, London
2004  Desert Mob, Alaluen Galleries, NT
2003  Telstra Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of NT, Darwin
2002  Australian Modern, Fondazione Mudima, Milan, Italy
2002  Two Sisters, Kathleen and Polly, Lorraine Diggins, Melbourne
2001  Bush Plum Dreaming, Indigienart, Perth
2001  Desert Mob, Araluen Galleries, NT
2001  Utopia, A Special Painting Place, Bett Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania
2000  Arts d’Australie, Stephane Jacob, Paris
2000   Urapunja artists in Brisbane, Michael Sourgnes
2000  Out of the Desert, Desert Gallery Sydney


1988  Time Before Time, Austral Gallery, St Louis, USA
1988  Painting and Batik from the Desert, Utopia Art, Sydney, NSW
1988  Utopia Batik, Craft Council Gallery, Canberra, ACT
1988  Utopia Batik, Queensland Museum, Brisbane, QLD
1987  Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle, WA
1987  Darwin Museum Gallery, Darwin, NT
1987  Yirrkala Community Centre, Northern Territory
1987  Jogyakarta Fine Art Academy, Indonesia
1987  Sydney Expo, Craft Council Gallery, Sydney, NSW
1987  The Araluen Centre, Alice Springs, NT
1986  Craft Council Gallery, Canberra, ACT
1986  Bundaberg Art Gallery, Queensland
1986  The Araluen Centre, Springs Craft Festival, Alice Springs, NT
1985  Black Women in Focus, Adelaide Festival, Adelaide, SA
1985  Burnie Gallery, Tasmania
1985  Tasmanian Craft Gallery, Hobart, TAS
1984  Craft Council Gallery, Canberra, ACT
1984  Queensland University Gallery, Brisbane, QLD
1984  Fireworks Gallery, Adelaide, SA
1984  Sydney Craft Expo, Sydney, NSW
1984  Darwin Craft Council Gallery, Darwin, NT
1984  The Araluen Centre, Alice Springs, NT
1983  Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide, SA
1983  Alice Springs Craft Council, Alice Springs, NT
1982  Sydney Craft Expo, Sydney, NSW
1982  Brisbane Commonwealth Games Exhibition, Brisbane, QLD
1981  Floating Forests of Silks - Utopia Batik from the Desert, Adelaide Festival Centre, SA
1980  Artworks, Alice Springs, NT


Finalist in the Telstra Art Award 2000 and 2008