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Artists of Utopia

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.

Utopia Artists

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

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 occupied for millennia.

One of the founding influences was the preparation done with the women artists at a time when the people 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 in force to support the batik initiative, and 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 was to occur 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 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.

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.

More about the artists:

Gloria Petyarre

Kudditji Kngwarreye

Abie Loy Kemarre

Dulcie Long Pwerle

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Bush Medicine Leaves by Gloria Petyarre

Gloria Petyarre  |  Bush Medicine Leaves

Jap 012703  |  acrylic on linen  |  200 x 150 cm

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Country by Lucky Morton Kngwarreye

Lucky Morton Kngwarreye  |  Country

Jap 012976  |  acrylic on linen  |  60 x 60 cm

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Awelye by Betty Mbitjana

Betty Mbitjana  |  Awelye

Jap 013083  |  acrylic on linen  |  122 x 91 cm

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My Country –  Soakages by Teresa Purla

Teresa Purla  |  My Country – Soakages

Jap 008447  |  acrylic on linen  |  133 x 100 cm

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Sandhills and River Bed by Delvine Petyarre

Delvine Petyarre  |  Sandhills and River Bed

Jap 013529  |  acrylic on canvas  |  91 x 60 cm

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Ankerre – Emu Dreaming at Alhalkere by Kudditji Kngwarreye

Kudditji Kngwarreye  |  Ankerre – Emu Dreaming at Alhalkere

Jap 006867  |  acrylic on linen  |  150 x 90 cm

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Untitled by Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Emily Kame Kngwarreye  |  Untitled

Jap 010494  |  acrylic on linen  |  151 x 90 cm

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Awelye – Body Paint by Betty Mbitjana

Betty Mbitjana  |  Awelye – Body Paint

Jap 010971  |  acrylic on canvas  |  183 x 149 cm

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Bush Medicine Leaves by Rosemary Petyarre

Rosemary Petyarre  |  Bush Medicine Leaves

Jap 013318  |  acrylic on linen  |  190 x 120 cm

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Awelye – Body Paint by Charmaine Pwerle

Charmaine Pwerle  |  Awelye – Body Paint

Jap 010575  |  152 x 92 cm  |  acrylic on linen

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Bush Medicine Leaves by Abie Loy Kemarre

Abie Loy Kemarre  |  Bush Medicine Leaves

Jap 012177  |  acrylic on linen  |  100 x 95 cm

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Alpar – Bush Seeds by June Bird Ngale

June Bird Ngale  |  Alpar – Bush Seeds

Jap 004745  |  acrylic on linen  |  100 x 100 cm

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Bush Plum Dreaming by Polly Ngale

Polly Ngale  |  Bush Plum Dreaming

Jap 010332  |  acrylic on linen  |  150 x 60 cm

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Awelye Atnwengerrp by Galya Pwerle

Galya Pwerle  |  Awelye Atnwengerrp

Jap 004530  |  acrylic on linen  |  70 x 55 cm

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Bush Medicine Leaves by Abie Loy Kemarre

Abie Loy Kemarre  |  Bush Medicine Leaves

Jap 012193  |  acrylic on linen  |  97 x 96 cm

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Awelye Atnwengerrp by Galya Pwerle

Galya Pwerle  |  Awelye Atnwengerrp

Jap 004533  |  acrylic on linen  |  70 x 55 cm

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Awelye – Body Paint by Abie Loy Kemarre

Abie Loy Kemarre  |  Awelye – Body Paint

Jap 009646  |  acrylic on linen  |  180 x 120 cm

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Bush Yam Seed by Rosemary Petyarre

Rosemary Petyarre  |  Bush Yam Seed

Jap 005438  |  acrylic on linen  |  120 x 90 cm

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Awelye by Betty Mbitjana

Betty Mbitjana  |  Awelye

Jap 013080  |  acrylic on linen  |  91 x 61 cm

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My Country by Anna Petyarre

Anna Petyarre  |  My Country

Jap 010863  |  acrylic on linen  |  90 x 90 cm

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Yam Dreaming by Anna Petyarre

Anna Petyarre  |  Yam Dreaming

Jap 011194  |  acrylic on linen  |  182 x 121 cm

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Bush Plum Dreaming by Polly Ngale

Polly Ngale  |  Bush Plum Dreaming

Jap 000896  |  acrylic on linen  |  120x90 cm

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Bush Hen Dreaming by Abie Loy Kemarre

Abie Loy Kemarre  |  Bush Hen Dreaming

Jap 012121  |  acrylic on linen  |  151 x 97 cm

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Alhalkere – My Country by Kudditji Kngwarreye

Kudditji Kngwarreye  |  Alhalkere – My Country

Jap 004083  |  acrylic on linen  |  200 x 120 cm

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Bush Plum Dreaming by Polly Ngale

Polly Ngale  |  Bush Plum Dreaming

Jap 012479  |  acrylic on linen  |  200 x 150 cm

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Awelye Atnwengerrp by Emily Pwerle

Emily Pwerle  |  Awelye Atnwengerrp

Jap 004528  |  acrylic on linen  |  70 x 55 cm

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Yam Flowers by Jeannie Petyarre

Jeannie Petyarre  |  Yam Flowers

Jap 004094  |  acrylic on linen  |  120 x 115 cm

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Ankerre – Emu Dreaming at Alhalkere by Kudditji Kngwarreye

Kudditji Kngwarreye  |  Ankerre – Emu Dreaming at Alhalkere

Jap 004066  |  acrylic on linen  |  148 x 139 cm

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Awelye – Anemangkerr by Minnie Pwerle

Minnie Pwerle  |  Awelye – Anemangkerr

Jap 003751  |  acrylic on linen  |  180 x 60 cm

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Awelye – Anemangkerr by Minnie Pwerle

Minnie Pwerle  |  Awelye – Anemangkerr

Jap 003752  |  acrylic on canvas  |  180 x 120 cm

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Bush Flowers – Atnewelarre by Dolly Mills Petyarre

Dolly Mills Petyarre  |  Bush Flowers – Atnewelarre

Jap 000139  |  acrylic on linen  |  121 x 120 cm

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My Country by Kudditji Kngwarreye

Kudditji Kngwarreye  |  My Country

Jap 009559  |  acrylic on linen  |  100 x 100 cm

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Bush Melon by Betty Mbitjana

Betty Mbitjana  |  Bush Melon

Jap 009212  |  acrylic on linen  |  90 x 61 cm

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Bush Hen Dreaming by Abie Loy Kemarre

Abie Loy Kemarre  |  Bush Hen Dreaming

Jap 011857  |  acrylic in linen  |  100 x 100 cm

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Yam Seed and Emu Tucker by Dolly Mills Petyarre

Dolly Mills Petyarre  |  Yam Seed and Emu Tucker

Jap 000151  |  acrylic on linen  |  152 x 120 cm

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Bush Plum Dreaming by Polly Ngale

Polly Ngale  |  Bush Plum Dreaming

Jap 012477  |  acrylic on linen  |  121 x 102 cm

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Arnkerrthe – Mountain Lizard Dreaming by Nancy Kunoth Petyarre

Nancy Kunoth Petyarre  |  Arnkerrthe – Mountain Lizard Dreaming

Jap 009655  |  acrylic on linen  |  120 x 120 cm

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