Ollie Kemarre Biography

View Ollie Kemarre paintings

Ollie (Allie) Kemarre was born around 1939 at Mount Swann and was brought up in the Haarts Range region with her sister, Glady Kemarre and brother Billy Benn Pwerle.

The two sisters (Ollie and Glady), with Angeline Ngale (Kngale), often sat together, painting the bush plum dreaming which had been passed down to her by her grandmother. Ollie's work always reflected her deep connection to her land and her own beautiful personality. 

Like many artists from the eastern desert community, Ollie started painting on fabric in the batik technique in 1977. Under the initial guidance of Yipati, a Pitjantjatjara artist from Ernabella and Suzie Bryce, a craft instructor. Later, Jenny Green, a wonderfully enthusiastic facilitator, provided cotton material and paints for the women to use, she also taught many of the women to sign their names as well as other new skills that would make a difference to life at Utopia, such as how to drive a car. When Julia Murray arrived, she introduced silk to the artists and helped expand the market; though the new works would still prove hard to sell.

After ten years of producing beautiful batik on silk and cotton in glorious colours, Ollie, along with other Utopia women took part in an exhibition at the S. H. Ervin Gallery in April 1989 on small boards. This was organised by Rodney Gooch of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA). She took part in A Summer Project: Utopia Women's Painting (first works on canvas) 1988-89, exhibited in 1989, then participated in the watercolour survey in early 1989 which was acquired in its entirety by the Holmes a Court Collection. 

Ollie's contribution demonstrated a level of artistic confidence and dynamic lyricism that came to define her art practice. 

Ollie lived her life as a traditional bush lady. She was an artist of the greatest integrity, talent and generosity - but for much of her career she remained one of the more invisible talents of the eastern desert, overwhelmed by the meteoric success of some of her contemporaries. While Ollie often remained in the shadow of her more renowned sister Glady and the three Kngale sisters, the two siblings used to be inseparable. Even their work had been included jointly in numerous exhibitions on Utopian Art, including the first Utopia painting project in 1989. In recent times, Ollie's work has been bought by major public collections. 

Ollie passed away in March 2007.



National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
The Holmes a Court Collection, Perth
Aboriginal Art Museum, Utrecht, The Netherlands


2017  The Golden Age of Utopia, Aboriginal Signature Estrangin gallery, Brussels, Belgium
2007  Eastern Desert Dreaming, Artists from Utopia, GalleryG, Brisbane
2006  Senior Women of Utopia, GalleryG, Brisbane
2002  Salon ART PARIS, Carrousel du Louvre, Galerie Arts d'Australie, Stéphane Jacob
2001  Australie, Visages d’un continent, Arts d'Australie, Stéphane Jacob, Galerie Visages de l'Art, Marly-le-Roi
1998  Malerei aus Utopia und Balgo Hills, Galerie Bähr, Allemagne
1997  Dessine moi un rêve, L'Art des aborigènes d'Australie, Arts d'Australie,
Stéphane Jacob / Musée des Beaux-Arts, Clermont Ferrand
1997  L’Art des Aborigènes d’Australie, Arts d'Australie Stéphane Jacob, 
Galerie de Stassart, Bruxelles
1997  L’Art des Aborigènes d’Australie, Arts d'Australie, Stéphane Jacob, 
Espace Paul Riquet, Béziers
1990  Utopia - A Picture Story - an exhibition of 88 works on silk from the Holmes a Court Collection by Utopia artists which toured Eire & Scotland
1989  Utopia Women's Paintings, the First Works on Canvas, A Summer Project
1988-89  S. H. Ervin 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