aboriginal artist: Kathleen Petyarre

Kathleen Petyarre was born circa 1940, at the remote location of Atnangkere, an important water soakage for Aboriginal people on the western boundary of Utopia Station, 150 miles north-east of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Kathleen belongs to the Alyawarre / Eastern Anmatyerre clan and speaks Eastern Anmatyerre, with English as her second language.

Kathleen, with her daughter Margaret and her sister’s, settled at Mosquito Bore, on Utopia Station near her birthplace. Kathleen now spends part of the year at her residence in Adelaide. Kathleen’s mother and seven sisters have managed to hold onto their land near Utopia Station as a group, establishing a camp at Atneftyeye Boundary Bore. Kathleen was one of the key Anmatyerre women involved in the successful claim for the freehold title, which led to the 1979 formal hand-over of the Utopia pastoral lease back to its traditional owners.

Kathleen’s inherited Dreaming stories from her father and mother are

Mountain Devil Lizard, or Thorny Devil Lizard (Arnkerrthe), Women Hunting Emu, and Dingo (Atnangkerre) and all of her paintings directly refer to these “Dreamings” and the associated country around Utopia in the eastern central desert of Australia.

A common theme of Kathleen’s paintings refer to Arnkerrthe, Mountain or Thorny Devil Lizard, (Moloch horridus) a small lizard which has spikes on its back and lives in the desert, crossing vast terrain and changing colour according to its environment like a true chameleon. The enormity of his journeys can be felt in the landscape of Kathleen’s works.

This important clan country serves not only as a creation site, but a sacred place in which to reconnect with the Dreaming through ceremony, and in particular, initiation rites.

Kathleen, continues to demonstrate her detailed, accurate knowledge and respect of country through her remarkable paintings that in turn give the viewer an insight into an ancient other world of endless beauty.

By 1996 Kathleen had won the National Aboriginal Art Award for her “new style” work and her career began to gather momentum. In 1998 she won the Seppelt’s Contemporary Art Award, which led to her 2001 retrospective Genius of Place: The Work of Kathleen Petyarre, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, the first major survey of her work featuring over 40 paintings, batiks and works on paper. Her career had begun to rival that of her Auntie: Emily Kngwarreye.



Finalist, “1998 Seppelts Contemporary Art Award – Visual Art ”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW., Australia.


Winner, People’s Choice Award, 1998 Seppelts Contemporary Art Award, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW., Australia.


Overall Winner of the Visy Board Art Prize, the Barossa Vintage Festival Art Show, Nurioopta, SA., Australia.


Joint Second Prize, Open Award Category – The Third National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Heritage Commission Art Award, Canberra, ACT., Australia.


Overall winner of the Telstra 13th National Aborigional & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Darwin, N.T., Australia


Collection of H. M. Queen Elizabeth II
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, ACT, Australia
The Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth, WA, Australia.
The Museum & Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT., Australia.
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, S.A. Australia.
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide, S.A. Australia
The Kluge-Rhue Collection, University of West Virginia, VA, USA.
The Kelton Foundation, Los Angeles, CA., USA.
The Levi-Kaplan Collection, Seattle, WA., USA
A.T.S.I.C. Collection, Adelaide, S.A. Australia.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Vic. Australia.
Museum Puri Lukisan, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
University of South Australia Art Museum, Adelaide, S.A. Australia.
Riddoch Regional Art Gallery, Mount Gambier, S.A. Australia.
Edith Cowan University, Perth, W.A. Australia.
Collection de Musée des Arts d’Afrique et d’Oceanie, Paris, France.
Peabody – Essex Anthropology and Ethnology Museum, Harvard University,
Salem, Mass., USA.
Adelaide Festival Centre Trust Collection, Adelaide, South Australia.