Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre

Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre
c. 1945 – 8 June 2021

History of Gloria’s country

About 250 kms north-east of Alice Springs in the Sandover area of Central Australia is the land known as Utopia.  From the 1930’s the vast 1,800 square kilometres was a pastoral cattle station settled by German settlers.

In 1965, the Chalmers family, who owned neighbouring MacDonald Downs since 1923, purchased the lease. In 1979 they sold the lease to the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission which handed it back to the Anmatyerr and Alyawarr people as Aboriginal freehold land.

There are different theories as to how the area was named Utopia. One is the German settlers chose it in anticipation of a plentiful life on the land.  Another is it is a distortion of ‘Uturupa’, which, in Anmatyerre and Alyawarr, means ‘big sand hill’.

Utopia is not one single community, it comprises sixteen homelands including, Iylenty (Mosquito Bore), Arawerr (Soapy Bore), Ngkwelay (Kurrajong Bore); Aharlper Store; Ankerrapw (Utopia homestead), Artekerr (Three Bores), Anelthyey (Boundary Bore) and Akay (Mulga Bore)


Gloria, who is largely recognised as the most renowned of all female Aboriginal artists, was born c. 1945 near Boundary Bore on Utopia and was the second youngest daughter of seven of seven girls. Her other sisters who also became leading artists were Kathleen, Ada, Nancy and Violet.

Utopia women, including Gloria and her sisters, began working with batik and fabric in 1977 and by the 1980’s were exhibiting their works on silk.  Depicted were often free flowing images of berries, yams grasses, flowers and seeds important to women’s ceremonies.  In 1988 eighty-eight women each provided batik panel for a large work call A Picture Story which was acquired by the Robert Holmes a Court Collection.  In 1990 this large work was exhibited in Scotland; Ireland; Harvard University, Massachusetts; other US states and the Art Gallery of NSW.

By late 1988 Gloria, her aunt, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, sister, Kathleen and others changed to painting their stories on canvas.  Gloria’s first exhibition painting on canvas was the 1989 Summer Project at the S.H. Ervin Gallery in Sydney organised by Rodney Gooch of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association.  Rodney had worked with the Utopian artists for many years and continued to do so for many more.  

Gloria’s fame was further enhanced by the 1989 successful Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi Utopia exhibition comprising women artists.

In 1999 Gloria became the first Aboriginal artist to win the prestigious Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW with her huge Leaves Blowing in the Wind – Medicine Leaves painting.  This story and technique would become identifiable throughout Australia and internationally as ‘Gloria’.  It can look like mesmerising swirling leaves being blown by a restless wind or ocean seagrasses swaying gently in coastal shallows.

Gloria’s Awelye (Women’s Dreaming) stories include Arnkerrth (Thorny Mountain Devil Lizard), the journey of two Apetyarr and two Kngwarrey’s travelling in of line of Anungra country sharing it’s Dreamings, ceremonies and laws, Body Stripes, Pencil Yam, Small Brown Grass and Grass Seed.

In 1994 a ‘Mountain Devil Lizard’ painting was acquired by Le Louvre’s Musee du quai Branly.

Gloria has been present at many of her international exhibitions including designing and creating the mural at the Kansas City Zoo, USA. She is one of Australia’s most esteemed and collectable artists.

Collections include;
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
Museum of Victoria, Melbourne
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Art Gallery of South Australia
Art Gallery of Queensland, Brisbane
Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Queensland
Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Musee du quai Branly, Paris
British Museum, London
Singapore Art Museum
Artbank, Sydney

Sources used:
Diggins, Lauraine, Aboriginal Culture & History, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art.
< https://www.diggins.com.au/artwork/aboriginal-main/utopia>
McCulloch, Susan, Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Allen & Unwin, 1999.
Isaacs, Jennifer, Spirit Country, Hardie Grant Books, 1999.  

Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre
Leaves Blowing in the Wind – Bush Medicine | Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre | TGP 501
Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre
Leaves Blowing in the Wind – Bush Medicine | Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre | TGP 432
Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre
Mountain Devil Lizard | Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre | KGP 02018
Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre
Body Stripes | Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre | LMGP 0204
Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre
Leaves Blowing in the Wind – Bush Medicine | Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre | TGP 1002
Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre
The swirling ochre design of the Mountain Devil Lizard's skin | Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre | TGP 422
Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre
Awelye | Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre | TGP 415
Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre
Leaves Blowing in the Wind – Bush Medicine | Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre | TGP 407
Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre
Leaves Blowing in the Wind – Bush Medicine | Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre | KGP 02012
Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre
Leaves Blowing in the Wind – Bush Medicine | Gloria (Tamerre) Petyarre | TGP 1003-5

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