Artists of Utopia

Utopia artists from central Australia represent a diverse and innovative group within Aboriginal art with styles that range from expressive to highly detailed dotting.

 

Bush Medicine Leaves by Bernadine Johnson

Bernadine Johnson  |  Bush Medicine Leaves

Jap 019159  |  acrylic on canvas  |  109 x 93 cm

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Awelye and Bush Tucker by Karen Bird Ngale

Karen Bird Ngale  |  Awelye and Bush Tucker

Jap 022245  |  acrylic on canvas  |  201 x 87 cm

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Awelye and Bush Tucker by Karen Bird Ngale

Karen Bird Ngale  |  Awelye and Bush Tucker

Jap 022247  |  acrylic on canvas  |  151 x 94 cm

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Women’s Dreaming by Katrina Bird Mbitjana

Katrina Bird Mbitjana  |  Women’s Dreaming

Jap 021915  |  acrylic on canvas  |  148 x 98 cm

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Bush Yam – My Country by Belinda Golder Kngwarreye

Belinda Golder Kngwarreye  |  Bush Yam – My Country

Jap 019335  |  acrylic on canvas  |  200x 100 cm

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Bush Medicine Leaves by Rosemary Petyarre

Rosemary Petyarre  |  Bush Medicine Leaves

Jap 021114  |  acrylic on canvas  |  177 x 115 cm

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Awelye – Body Paint by Charmaine Pwerle

Charmaine Pwerle  |  Awelye – Body Paint

Jap 019592  |  acrylic on linen  |  181 x 121 cm

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Bush Yam by Jeannie Mills Pwerle

Jeannie Mills Pwerle  |  Bush Yam

Jap 020685  |  acrylic on canvas  |  199 x 89 cm

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Mother’s Country by Barbara Weir

Barbara Weir  |  Mother’s Country

Jap 019022  |  acrylic on canvas  |  180 x 122 cm

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Wildflowers and Bush Tucker by Margaret Scobie

Margaret Scobie  |  Wildflowers and Bush Tucker

Jap 021056  |  acrylic on canvas  |  95 x 90 cm

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Hunting for Bush Tucker by Gracie Morton Pwerle

Gracie Morton Pwerle  |  Hunting for Bush Tucker

Jap 021567  |  acrylic on canvas  |  130 x 95 cm

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Bush Medicine Leaves by Rosemary Petyarre

Rosemary Petyarre  |  Bush Medicine Leaves

Jap 020966  |  acrylic on canvas  |  198 x 127 cm

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Awelye – Anemangkerr  (Bush Melon) by Minnie Pwerle

Minnie Pwerle  |  Awelye – Anemangkerr (Bush Melon)

Jap 020274  |  acrylic on linen  |  122 x 92 cm

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Bush Medicine Leaves by Jeannie Petyarre

Jeannie Petyarre  |  Bush Medicine Leaves

Jap 018835  |  acrylic on canvas  |  120 x 91 cm

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Yam Dreaming by Greeny Purvis Petyarre

Greeny Purvis Petyarre  |  Yam Dreaming

Jap 000238  |  acrylic on linen  |  150 x 90 cm

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My Country by Rochelle Bird Mbitjana

Rochelle Bird Mbitjana  |  My Country

Jap 021911  |  acrylic on canvas  |  126 x 94 cm

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My Country by Rochelle Bird Mbitjana

Rochelle Bird Mbitjana  |  My Country

Jap 021919  |  acrylic on canvas  |  129 x 94 cm

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Body Paint and Awelye by Betty Mbitjana

Betty Mbitjana  |  Body Paint and Awelye

Jap 021405  |  acrylic on canvas  |  200 x 106 cm

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Awelye and Bush Tucker by Karen Bird Ngale

Karen Bird Ngale  |  Awelye and Bush Tucker

Jap 022246  |  acrylic on canvas  |  198 x 90 cm

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Bush Turkey Story by Cowboy Loy Pwerl

Cowboy Loy Pwerl  |  Bush Turkey Story

Jap 020086  |  acrylic on linen  |  119.5 x 90 cm

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Anatye – Bush Yam by Jeannie Mills Pwerle

Jeannie Mills Pwerle  |  Anatye – Bush Yam

Jap 021560  |  acrylic on canvas  |  95 x 89 cm

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Wildflowers and Bush Tucker by Margaret Scobie

Margaret Scobie  |  Wildflowers and Bush Tucker

Jap 021908  |  acrylic on canvas  |  125 x 80 cm

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Bush Yam Leaves by Dulcie Long Pwerle

Dulcie Long Pwerle  |  Bush Yam Leaves

Jap 021109  |  acrylic on canvas  |  150 x 95 cm

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Bush Medicine Leaves by Rosemary Petyarre

Rosemary Petyarre  |  Bush Medicine Leaves

Jap 021112  |  acrylic on canvas  |  180 x 115 cm

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My Country by Freda Price Pwerle

Freda Price Pwerle  |  My Country

Jap 022342  |  acrylic on canvas  |  91 x 76 cm

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Hunting for Bush Tucker by Gracie Morton Pwerle

Gracie Morton Pwerle  |  Hunting for Bush Tucker

Jap 021565  |  acrylic on canvas  |  130 x 95 cm

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Bush Plum by Gracie Morton Pwerle

Gracie Morton Pwerle  |  Bush Plum

Jap 020644  |  acrylic on canvas  |  200 x 130 cm

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Pencil Yam Seed by Bessie Petyarre

Bessie Petyarre  |  Pencil Yam Seed

Jap 022243  |  acrylic on canvas  |  152 x 93 cm

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Bush Plum Dreaming by Belinda Golder Kngwarreye

Belinda Golder Kngwarreye  |  Bush Plum Dreaming

Jap 019440  |  acrylic on canvas  |  280 x 190 cm

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Bush Yam – Mother’s Country by Naomi Price Pwerle

Naomi Price Pwerle  |  Bush Yam – Mother’s Country

Jap 018820  |  acrylic on canvas  |  122 x 61 cm

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Bush Yam – Mother’s Country by Naomi Price Pwerle

Naomi Price Pwerle  |  Bush Yam – Mother’s Country

Jap 018821  |  acrylic on canvas  |  122 x 91 cm

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Bush Medicine Leaves by Bernadine Johnson

Bernadine Johnson  |  Bush Medicine Leaves

Jap 021045  |  acrylic on canvas  |  94 x 90 cm

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Rainbow Country by Ruby Morton Kngwarray

Ruby Morton Kngwarray  |  Rainbow Country

Jap 020108  |  acrylic on linen  |  120 x 92 cm

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My Country by Rochelle Bird Mbitjana

Rochelle Bird Mbitjana  |  My Country

Jap 021918  |  acrylic on canvas  |  200 x 99 cm

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Bush Plum Dreaming by Gracie Morton Pwerle

Gracie Morton Pwerle  |  Bush Plum Dreaming

Jap 020896  |  acrylic on canvas  |  198 x 130 cm

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Untitled by Sarah Morton Kngwarray

Sarah Morton Kngwarray  |  Untitled

Jap 020110  |  acrylic on linen  |  91 x 119 cm

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Untitled by Elizabeth Kunoth Kngwarray

Elizabeth Kunoth Kngwarray  |  Untitled

Jap 020093  |  acrylic on linen  |  122 x 92 cm

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Awelye and Bush Melon by Betty Mbitjana

Betty Mbitjana   |  Awelye and Bush Melon

Jap 008311  |  acrylic on linen  |  120 x 120 cm

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Who Are the Artists of Utopia?

The Artists of Utopia are a large group of Australian Aboriginal artists who work on the Utopia Homelands, located 270 km north-east of Alice Springs in the Eastern Desert. These artists represent a diversity of style and technique, that remains unique in the world of contemporary Australian Aboriginal art.

Where do the Artists of Utopia come from?

The people at Utopia are the Eastern Anmatyarre and Alyawarre language groups, who had lived and worked on the cattle stations on their lands since white settlement in 1927. The area, occupying 1800 square kilometres of desert country, was the ancestral country of their forebears, where the family clans had lived for millennia.

What are the origins of the Artists of Utopia contemporary art movement?

One of the founding influences was the preparation done with the women artists when they were in the process of applying for freehold tenure and control of their traditional lands. In 1978, educators Toly Sawkeno and Jenny Green, created the Batik Project to teach local women craft skills that could provide income for the group and demonstrate commercial initiative that might support the upcoming land claim.

The artists lived in a number of outstations across the Utopia Homelands, based on family clan groups who chose to live in specific locations. They came together to support the batik initiative. They soon established a reputation for creating beautiful silk batiks that represented the vital stories of their lands. In 1981, the artists were featured at the Adelaide Art Festival, in an exhibition titled ‘Floating Forests of Silk:  Utopia Batik from the Desert’.

The Batik Project produced many skilled artists who shared family group designs and technical skills while developing their own special approach to their art. The next step happened in 1988-89 when the artists made their first paintings on canvas and exhibited them in the Sydney exhibition ‘The Summer Project:  Utopia Women’s Paintings’ at the S.H. Ervin Gallery. Although these were smaller scale works and limited to four basic colours – black, white, yellow ochre and red ochre – the exhibition established the artists on a remarkable path to artistic success.

Who Are The Most Famous Artists from the Artists of Utopia?

Pre-eminent amongst the group was Emily Kame Kngwarreye who established new possibilities for contemporary Aboriginal painting. By deconstructing the layering technique used in batik, the artists began to use elements of the total designs to create new images and art styles. Others artists established their own styles including Gloria Petyarre, Kathleen Petyarre, Nancy Petyarre, Ada Bird, Barbara Weir, Greenie Purvis and Kudditji Kngwarreye.

Their legacy was to create an openness of style and approach that allowed hundreds of other artists from the Utopia clan groups to expand on their artistic work in a multi-generational art movement that has maintained its energy and diversity.

Do Australian Aboriginal Utopian Artists Use Body Paint Designs?

As well as the artists influenced by batiks, another group used broad gestural mark making that related to body paint designs or markings on country. These artists used strong colour and expressive movement to enliven their canvases. Artists from this group include Minnie Pwerle and Kudditji Kngwarreye, although many other artists used this style of working for particular subjects. We could add Barbara Weir, Gloria Petyarre, Betty Mbitjana and Galya Pwerle to this list.

What Are The Dreaming Stories Artists of Utopia Paint About?

Stories with strong ceremonial associations for the women artists of Utopia became a major focus for painting. These stories include Yam Dreaming, Bush Medicine Leaves and Awelye Body Paint were widely interpreted by the artists.

View Artists:

Gloria Petyarre

Kudditji Kngwarreye

Abie Loy Kemarre

Polly Ngale

Minnie Pwerle

Gracie Morton Pwerle

Janet Golder Kngwarreye

Jeannie Mills Pwerle

Betty Mbitjana (Mpetyane)

Lanita Numina Napanangka

View Exhibitions:

2021 Utopia Aboriginal Art

2018 Painting on Country – Utopia Artists

2015 Camel Camp & Beyond – Utopia Artists of the Eastern Desert

Read:

Art & Life at Camel Camp on Utopia Homelands

Utopia Artists Painting on Country Exhibiting at Japingka

Aboriginal Art Movement at Utopia

Camel Camp and Beyond: Utopian Artists of the Central Desert