UNTITLED, c.1991

Important Aboriginal + Oceanic Art
24 March 2010

Emily Kame Kngwarreye

(c.1910 - 1996)
UNTITLED, c.1991

synthetic polymer paint on linen

121.5 x 210.0 cm

inscribed verso: artist's name and cat. IV07

$90,000 - 120,000
Sold for $96,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 13 - 24 March 2010, Melbourne

Delmore Gallery, Alice Springs
Private collection, United States of America

Catalogue text

It is difficult to think of another Australian artist who, having started painting so late in life, left such an enduring mark on modern Australian art – and in this masterwork we can begin to understand why. It marks a departure from her first paintings where the patterns and dots represent the wellspring of her experience, namely her Alhalkere home at Utopia in the Eastern Desert, north east of Alice Springs – the landscape and its cycles, the seasons, her Dreamings.

In this work all connections to signs and linear marks have lost definition. She is immersed in the experience of painting and the interconnectedness of life, landscape and culture. Indeed, when asked about what she paints, she said, 'Whole lot, that's all – that's what I paint, whole lot.'1

Paintings from this brief period in which the vibrant, all-over and energetic treatment of the canvas – its wholeness – have generated widespread critical and institutional interest with other works such as the exceptional Wild Potato Dreaming 1990 being held in the Queensland Art Gallery collection, Brisbane.

She may have followed in the wake of the success of Western Desert painting, but Emily became nationally and internationally recognized for the way in which she intuitively responded to her specific cultural experiences and the many stylistic shifts she effortlessly adopted. Shortly after this work was painted she returned to painting strong, lineal works and canvases seemingly saturated in colour.

Emily's career began in the late 1980s, and in the years until her death in 1996, she produced a body of work which radically altered the way in which we see and understand modern Aboriginal art. For most of her life she lived with little contact with the outside world. While much has been made of the way in which we might view her work in parallel with modern, non-indigenous abstraction, we must first recognize her achievement as a truly inventive and original contribution to Aboriginal art.

1. Emily Kame Kngwarreye, interview with Rodney Gooch, 1990