Important Australian and International Fine Art + Important Indigenous Art
29 November 2017


(c.1910 – 1996)

synthetic polymer paint on linen

213.0 x 120.0 cm

bears inscription verso: artist's name, title and Delmore Gallery cat. 95F014

$80,000 – 120,000

Delmore Gallery, via Alice Springs
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

This important painting Anooralya III, 1995, by Emily Kngwarreye was painted in the month prior to the iconic Big Yam Dreaming, 1995 hanging in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye began painting on canvas in late 1988 and quickly emerged as one of Australia's leading painters, her works being sought after on an unprecedented scale. Her mark making revealed a strength and sureness of hand that delivered an exuberance of gesture. She developed a free-flowing style of painting based on the meandering linear pattern of the spread of the underground roots of the yam plant. This design, and myriad variations upon it, would either dissolve into fields of layered colour achieved through a build-up of dots upon dots, or as with this painting, standalone, becoming the graphic centre piece of the work.

In the later part of her life Emily produced a series of gestural paintings using a dry brush technique and a palette limited to reds, whites and occasionally blues usually set against black grounds. These elaborate on the intuitive wandering line based on the spreading root of the yam plant Anooralya (Vigna Lanceolata), and the cracks in the surface of the earth that indicate their presence. This imagery relates to the dry period of the year when the root lays dormant waiting to be either harvested, local people digging down through the cracks, or rejuvenated by rain. The drawn surface of this painting lays bare the skeleton that underlies much of her art, and can be likened to the veins, sinews and contours seen in the body of the land from above.

Anooralya III is reductive in the use of Emily’s lexicon, a rare black on white example where thick powerful brush strokes are drawn upon a white ground. It is the gesture, the way that the paint has been applied that dominates this painting. The work exudes energy and the sweeping lines express a movement that takes your eye across all parts of the canvas. A large painting, over two metres long, the gestural marks created by the expressive movement of the of the artist's outstretched arm lend the painting a human scale while describing a broad stretch of her country. 'This is a striking instance of body and country becoming one, … a woman drawing her country with her body's reach’.1

1. Smith, T., 'Kngwarreye woman abstract painter', in Isaacs, J. et al., Emily Kngwarreye Paintings, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1998, p. 32