Artwork by Kathleen Petyarre

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Kathleen Petyarre born 1940, is an Australian Aboriginal artist. Her art refers directly to her country and her Dreamings. Petyarre’s paintings have occasionally been compared to the works of American Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, and even to those of J.M.W. Turner. She has won several awards and is considered one of the ‘most collectible artists in Australia’. Her works are in great demand at auctions. However, due to ongoing health problems, she has now all but retired from painting.
Petyarre’s technique consists of layering very fine dots of thin acrylic paint onto the canvas, evoking the Aboriginal custom of ceremonial body painting, to carefully construct abstract landscapes that reveal a remarkable depth when viewed up close.

Most of Petyarre’s paintings detail the journeys of her Dreaming Ancestor, Arnkerrth, the Old Woman Mountain Devil, and are indicative of the Aborigines’ traditional land navigation skills. She adopts an aerial view typical of her region’s artworks to reconstruct memorised landscapes and express her Dreamings as “a barely tangible, shadowy palimpsest, overwritten, as it were, by the surface colours and movement”. She describes her paintings as “like looking down on my country during the hot time, when the country changes colour… I love to make the painting like it’s moving, travelling, but it’s still our body painting, still our ceremony.”


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