Vale Kathleen Petyarre


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this post includes the name of a person who has died.

We were saddened to learn of the death of celebrated Utopia artist Kathleen Petyarre on 24 November 2018. Recognised as one of the premier contemporary painters of the central and western desert art movement, Kathleen’s work was executed in the finest detail, depicting the travels of Arnkerrth, the Mountain Devil Lizard. Since her prize winning entry at the 1996 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, she found new representations bordering between cultural histories and abstractions and was celebrated through many exhibitions; on the international stage and through the survey exhibition Genius of Place at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2001). Her compositions often focussed on diagonal tensions; illustrating travels and sacred sites. Kathleen’s abilities as a painter were matched by her seniority in cultural knowledge and matriarchal duties of custodianship.

Read the personal tribute from Christine Nicholls, Flinders University as published in The Conversation.

“The thorny devil is unable to cover country in a straight line – she always takes a semi-circular route across her vast, arid country. This seems an apt metaphor for Kweyetemp Petyarre’s life, which hasn’t followed the trajectory that her younger self had foreseen, perforce veering off and rounding corners that she had never dreamed of in her childhood. That life, so rudely interrupted by the colonisers, was largely held together by her love of her family, and their love for her.

Petyarre also enjoyed being feted as a successful artist, and the travel that involved – arnkerrth is a great traveller.”

Christine Nicholls, Kathleen Petyarre: a brilliant artist whose life was rudely interrupted by colonisers. The Conversation, 26 November 2018