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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 Utopian 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. Her first solo exhibition was held at Utopia Art Sydney in 1990, and with various others following at: Hogarth Gallery Sydney, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi Melbourne, Rebecca Hossack Gallery London, Austral Gallery St Louis U.S.A., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Plimsoll Gallery Centre for the Arts Hobart, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Lake Oswego Centre for the Arts U.S.A., Union of Soviet Artists Gallery Moscow, Museum of Ethnographic Art St.
Petersburg, Lowe Art Museum University of Miami, Nogazaka Arthall Tokyo, State Ukrainian Museum of Art Kiev, National Museums of Modern Art Kyoto and Tokyo, Museum of Modern Art Minsk, Bishop Museum Hawaii and many, many more prestigious venues. In 1993 she won the Australian Artists Creative fellowship without even applying for it. In 1999 a retrospective of the artists work traveled to all major state galleries ‘Alhalkere: Paintings from Utopia,’ where comparisons were drawn with the great French Impressionist Claude Monet or Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. In 1999 Emily’s work was included in ‘United Nations’, New York, and in 2001-2004 included in ‘Mythology and Reality: Contemporary Aboriginal Desert Art from the Gabrielle Pizzi Collection,’ Palazzo Bricherasio Turin, Italy; AAM Utrecht, Netherlands; Jerusalem Centre for the Performing Arts, Israel; SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney; Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne Australia.
Collections: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Museums and art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin; Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs; Artbank, Sydney; Jinta Desert Art Gallery Sydney, Aboriginal Art Galleries of Australia Melbourne, Aboriginal Desert Art Gallery Alice Springs, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia; Auckland City Art Gallery New Zealand, Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria; Coventry Collection Sydney, Donald Kahn Collection University of Miami, Museum of Victoria, Melbourne; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; The Holmes a Court Collection, The Kelton Foundation; Santa Monica U.S.A., University of Sydney Union, and the University of New South Wales, Sydney; Vatican Collection, Italy.
Emily frequently traveled to our Alice Springs gallery to paint and was treated as part of the family. The need for money for herself and her large family kept Emily painting profoundly until she passed away in September 1996.
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.