DOB: 1938 – 2017
BORN: Utopia, Pmarajutunta, NT
TRIBAL GROUP: Eastern Anmatyerre
COMMUNITY: Utopia, NT
Born around 1928, Kudditji Kngwarreye, the younger brother of the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye, had a traditional bush upbringing in the Utopia region before starting a long career as a stockman and mine worker. An Anmatyerre elder and custodian of many important Dreamings, Kudditji was inspired by the work coming out of Papunya to paint his own Dreamings, telling of the travels and law of the Emu ancestors.
Like his famous older sister, Kudditji is a custodian of this country. Although both Emily and her brother developed a more abstract style in the later years, they both remained faithful to their designated Dreaming stories In his younger life, Kudditji had numerous jobs throughout the Central Desert, travelling widely and working as a stockman, and at other times working in mineral and gold mines. Paintings by the great Kudditji are hot property right now, both in Australia and internationally. During his younger days Kudditji frequently took the young boys/men hunting emu in these lands, merging tradition with practice as part of their initiation as men. It is the land of this experience that he now paints his ‘Emu Dreamings’ and his ‘My Country’ works.
Kudditji has participated in many international exhibitions and is known for depictions of his Dreamings, particularly those related to the law of the Emu ancestors. When he began painting around 1986, he was encouraged to paint in the fashionable style of the time, executing works with detailed infill. Some years later he came to find his current style of abstract imagery, bold colour use and intuitive interplay with space and form. Initially this style was not welcomed by galleries and for
a time he returned to his (then) more successful traditional style of work. However, the artist’s voice was not to be denied for long, and he later resumed his exploration into the abstract and continues to follow his unique approach today.
Now Kudditji’s Dreamings have profoundly evolved into extraordinary juxtaposed colour fields, startling in both composition and hue. Harsh or soft and often surprising to the Western eye, his painterly style maps out the creation, his country, and his traditional Dreamings. While his spatial, painterly compositions have a Rothko-esque quality to them, the work of this Anmatyerre elder from the Northern Territory is clearly a unique Australian voice. His highly intuitive and gestural method of painting together with his vibrant, colour saturated spaces is ground breaking in Aboriginal art, and although he is already well collected it is felt by many industry insiders that his work is poised for a major market leap.
The most recent My Country works of Kudditji Kngwarreye have captured international attention where perhaps abstract indigenous art is more readily accepted. Most recently he was represented at the Arken Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen to huge success.
Sadly Kudditji passed away this year a great loss to the art world and to those people who knew him personally or through his paintings.
2011: Kudditji Kngwarreye, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2010: Kudditji Kngwarreye, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2009: Kudditji Kngwarreye: Pastels, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2008: 30 Emu Dreamings, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2008: My Country, Japingka Gallery, Perth
2006: Masterwork, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
2006: My Country, Japingka Gallery, Perth
2005: Waterhole Aboriginal Art, Danks Street, Sydney
2005: New Paintings, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
2005: Colours in Country, Art Mob, Hobart, Tasmania
2004: My Country, New Paintings, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
2004: My Country, Japingka Gallery, Perth
2004: Waterhole Aboriginal Art, Sofitel Wentworth Hotel Exhibition, Sydney
2003: New Paintings, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
1999: New Paintings, Chapel off Chapel, Melbourne
Selected group exhibitions:
2008: Black & White: Inspired by Landscape, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2005: Big Country, Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs
2005: Fresh from the Central Desert, Canberra Grammar School, Canberra
2004: Two Senior Men, Art Mob Gallery, Tasmania
2004: Australian Exhibition Centre, Chicago
2004: Spirit of Colour, Depot Gallery, Sydney
2002: The Contemporaries, Contemporary Artspace, Brisbane
1992: Tjukurrpa, Museum fur Volkerkunde, Basel, Switzerland
1991: Central Australian Aboriginal Art & Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs
1990: Art Dock, Contemporary Art from Australia, Noumea, New Caledonia
Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs
Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne
Macquarie University, NSW
R. M. Barokh Antiques, Los Angeles, California
Title: Emu Dreaming at Boundary Bore
Details: Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 206 x 120 cm,
Auction Price: $19,200
Auction House: Sotheby’s Australia, Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 24/11/2009, Lot No. 153
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