Barbara Weir was born about 1945 at Bundey River Station, a cattle station in the Utopia region (called Urupunta in the local Aboriginal language) of the Northern Territory. Her parents were Minnie Pwerle, an Aboriginal woman, and Jack Weir, an Irish man described by one source as a pastoral station owner, by a second as “an Irish Australian man who owned a cattle run called Bundy River Station”,but by another as an Irish stockman.
At the age of nine, Barbara was taken away from her family, which was typical of the times particularly for children of mixed heritage. These children who were taken away from their family and lands are now collectively known as the stolen generation. Barbara lost track of her family as she was fostered out to various families in Alice Springs, Victoria and Darwin. Though separated, Barbara was determined to return to her country and re-claim her heritage.
In the late 1960’s Barbara and her six children returned to Utopia. It was here that Barbara was able to re-connect with her community. She was re-united with Emily Kame Kngwarreye who had looked after her as a child. Barbara’s interest in painting grew from her unique relationship with Emily and has now emerged as one of Australia’s leading artists.
Barbara uses warm colours and short strokes, which overlap and weave to create the swaying effect of moving grass. This grass is found throughout the year, can grow up to 15 cm long and is reddish in colour. The seed is an important staple food of traditional Aboriginal communities. Barbara’s career as an artist was inspired by the dynamic community of artists at Utopia and the work of her adopted grandmother Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Emily’s work had a profound impact on her and in the early 1990’s she began seriously to explore her artistic talents.
Highly experimental in her approach, she tried many mediums and in 1994 went to Indonesia with other artists to explore the art of batik. This gave her new insights into her own process and she returned full of ideas on how to develop her own style. Barbara is a highly talented, inventive, creative, energetic and hard working artist, who paints in a number of different styles and who pushes her own artistic boundaries in doing so. Because of this, her important part in the Utopian community, her family connections and her difficult life experiences at the hands of the white administration of the day, she is a highly collectible artist, and one who continues to grow in stature at a steady rate.
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