Emily Kame Kngwarreye


Awelye 1989 90 x 60 cm

“. . .whole lot, that’s whole lot, . . . .That’s what I paint: whole lot. . . .” (Alhalkere Paintings from Utopia)

As some of you guessed last month , our mystery abstract painter is the indigenous artist from Central Australia, Emily Kame Kngwaarreye whose career as a painter spanned less than 8 years ( she was a batik artist for 12 years) but whose legacy includes almost 3,000 works.

Emu Woman

Emu Woman 1988/89 92 x 61 cm

I will never fully understand how or why Kngwarreye painted as she did, the mapping of her environment, the spiritual meaning, her connection to her environment. Perhaps there is a cultural gulf which I will never cross, but I admire her work tremendously and find it endlessly fascinating–a way of seeing landscape that mesmerizes.

Untitled 1992

Untitled 1992 165×165 cm

Untitled 1992

Untitled 1992 164×227 cm

I know only that her magnificent use of color and pattern are phenomenal — and inspirational — abstractions (expressive too!).

7 Responses to “Emily Kame Kngwarreye”

  1. 1 Deborah Barlow December 23, 2007 at 10:46 am

    I never tire of reading about and looking at Emily’s work. Thank you for expanding her influence even further to your blog readers. She is one of my personal heroes, and I treasure the 3 small paintings by her I bought 15 years ago. They are persisently magical.

  2. 2 clairan December 1, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you Margaret for the links. I particularly liked Napangardi’s painting. So textural an textile-like!

  3. 4 Margaret Cooter November 29, 2007 at 2:10 am

    Who is allowed to paint what is a touchy subject. As I understand it, artists have the right, through inheritance, to paint certain subjects (dreamings). Any “westerner” who paints related subjects/images is looked on as undertaking appropriation; Australia seems to have become quite sensitive to aboriginal rights, in art galleries in large cities at least.
    At the risk of straying off topic I’d like to mention another Australian artist of note: Dorothy Napangardi, with her many huge paintings of the Women’s Dreaming of the salt pans of Mina Mina – there’s a lovely book showing her work called Dancing Up Country, quoted from on this blog:

    and some of her paintings are at

  4. 5 Olga November 26, 2007 at 9:35 am

    One aspect I find fascinating about this brilliant woman’s work is that she developed her own painting style through the use of a textile medium: it was her adapting traditional designs for batik that led her to her individual vision. My own thoughts on the cultural images of others is that we should not use them unless they speak very directly to us, and that that communication is acknowledged and clear in our work – and most important, that our work is clearly our work, not a reworking.

    I was keen to see the original from which the stripes had been cropped in the original post on this topic, and found this interesting article as well as the illustration: http://www.theage.com.au/news/arts/uncertain-quest-for-the-sublime/2005/12/01/1133311152959.html

  5. 6 gabrielleswain November 26, 2007 at 6:36 am

    Great food for thought, June. This same theme brings to mind the appropriation of imagery from other cultures for our own work. How do we use another cultural image if we have no real understanding of its meaning? My favorite was the red untitled but I have no frame of reference other than the beauty of the color and design.

  6. 7 June November 25, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    This brings up a whole kettle of fish (worms? worm holes? polka dots? landscapes).

    I have read a few things about the Aborigines concept of land — they renew the land by traveling over it. I can even envision something of how that feels, translated, of course, to my own trees and waters.

    But I wonder if I can ever fully feel what these paintings are to the Aborigines? More, if we Clairan hadn’t told us whose they were, and if I didn’t know anything about the culture, what would I have thought about them?

    I think art is really cultural. And just as we can learn to appreciate, but never fully participate, in someone else’s culture, so we can never fully participate in someone else’s art.

    I like Emu woman best.

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