Gloria Petyarre

Australia 1945


Gloria Petyarre
Gloria Petyarre
April 28, 2016

Gloria Petyarre makes nature inspired paintings using delicate brush strokes and elements of her Aboriginal culture. She has been living in her home of Utopia, an Aboriginal homeland that is located in the north of Australia. Traditional to her culture, Gloria Petyarre started painting Dreamtimes inspired by nature around her, especially plants, trees, flowers and medicinal vegetation. Dreamtime is a sacred Aboriginal word that means knowledge and understanding of the world’s events and occurrences. With Dreamtime, all the knowledge begins, and in this moment, all the laws of nature are being exposed. One must respect the sacredness of Dreamtime in order to become fully capable of survival.

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Gloria Petyarre – Bush Leaves, photo credits Indigenousinstyle

Dreamtime as an Inspiration

When Gloria Petyarre first painted her Dreamtime of Kurrajong tree, which is used for making a medicinal paste that has been part of the Utopian tradition for many years, she did it without a presumption that it will mark her artistic career. She became involved in a community artistic project in the 70’s and started painting silk batiks. She used traditional motifs and patterns and painted silk became her primary focus. Petyarre became a founder of a Women Society for Silk Batik painting. Dreamtime of emu, lizards, and other spirit animals were one of her first paintings of Aboriginal iconography. Not much later she switched to acrylic painting canvases and in 1991 held her first solo exhibition in Australia and the United States. In 1999, Gloria Petyarre won a prestigious Wynne Prize for Landscape award for the painting of Bush Medicine Dreamtime from her hometown. An abstract, green and golden, soft and lively leaves were spread across the large canvas.

Bush Medicine Dreamtime won her a prestigious Wynne Prize for Landscape award

Gloria Petyarre - Bush Medicine Dreamtime (Detail), photo credits Indigenousinstyle
Gloria Petyarre – Bush Medicine Dreamtime (Detail), photo credits Indigenousinstyle

Bush Leaves Paintings

Her motive was to express her soul in a creative way in order to visually represent what is holy to her and her culture. A certain freedom can be detected in her abstraction as if she stopped the time, and painted the stillness of the leaves that swing in the wind. Stillness yet liveliness are characteristic for all of her work. Her palette is bold and vivid, but very carefully harmonized with the original representation in nature. Living in a town without governance, and being far away from the rest of the world influenced her theme, but not her success. As the artistic movement among others continued to grow, so did the world’s interest for Petyarre paintings. Painting bush leaves were her signature move, but her connection to nature and spirits that drive it lead her to many other successful pieces. As a part of her heritage, the artist always found inspiration in her beliefs.

The artist’s motive is to visually represent what is holy to her

Gloria Petyarre - Bush Medicine Dreamtime (Detail) , photo credits Japingka
Gloria Petyarre – Bush Medicine Dreamtime (Detail) , photo credits Japingka

Thorny Mountain Devil Lizard in Galleries and Museums

Many of her works are Dreamtime paintings. Thorny Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming portrays a lizard’s movement that, with its vigorous tail, leaves swirl marks in the sand. Her knowledge of natural forces is wonderfully exposed in her connection with the living beings. Gloria Petyarre comes from the family of artist and for years, she has been painting with her sisters. Her works are part of the collections in National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, British Museum in London and many other galleries and museums around the world. Her works are a preservation of historical facts and myths that shape and keep alive the magic of indigenous living. Mountain Devil Lizard is a token of a living force, a master of survival and it is a frequent symbol in Utopian body paint arts. Petyarre keeps all these elements alive in her art.

Mountain Devil Lizard is a token of a living force

Gloria Petyarre - Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming, photo credits Karlangu
Gloria Petyarre – Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming, photo credits Karlangu

Celebration of Nature, Life and Wisdom

With her paintings, she celebrates animals and plants and honors their symbolic power of life. What she does is storytelling. Guided by the strong sense of narrative flow, Petyarre paints Dreamtimes that can be read and interpreted as a guidebook through her life and the essence of indigenous people of her town. Getting to know spirits and forces was crucial for survival, but for Gloria Petyarre survival was not fighting for life and defending from the danger. Survival means living in harmony. The only thing one needs to survive and get through is the tendency to walk through life with eyes not wide enough open and miss out the beauty of existence. Her wonderful and colorful abstractions bring out the virtue of living in accordance with natural laws.

Gloria Petyarre lives and works in Utopia, Austraila.

All images used for illustrative purpose only © Gloria Petyarre

Featured image: Gloria Petyarre – Bush Medicine Leaves, photo credits Japingka

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2011Aboriginal Art Collectors' GalleryKate Owen Gallery, SydneyGroup
2010Gloria PetyarreDacou Gallery, Melbourne, VicSolo
2009Size MattersKate Owen Gallery, SydneyGroup
20095th Shalom Gamarada Aboriginal Art ExhibitionUniversity of NSWGroup
2009AbstractionUtopia Art SydneyGroup
2008Three Petyarre'sKate Owen Gallery, SydneyGroup
2008Gooch's UtopiaFlinders University, Adelaide, SAGroup
2006A SurveyUtopia Art Sydney, NSWGroup
2006Group ExhibitionNational Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC, USAGroup
2006UtopiaFlinders Lane GalleryGroup
2004Power of The LandUtopia Art Sydney, NSWGroup
2004Group ExhibitionFremantle Arts Centre, WAGroup
2004Group ExhibitionCurtin University of Technology, WAGroup
2004Group ExhibitionIvan Dougherty Gallery, COFA, NSWGroup
2004The Women's ShowVivienne Anderson Gallery, VictoriaGroup
2003Group ExhibitionChapel off Chapel, MelbourneGroup
2003Group ExhibitionNational Gallery of Victoria at Federation Square, MelbourneGroup
2003Group ExhibitionGlen Eira City Gallery, MelbourneGroup
2002Group ExhibitionChapel off Chapel, MelbourneGroup
2002Group ExhibitionNational Gallery of Victoria at Federation Square, MelbourneGroup
2002Group ExhibitionLight Square Gallery, AdelaideGroup
2002Group ExhibitionSingapore Art MuseumGroup
2002Group ExhibitionKnut Grothe Galeri, DenmarkGroup
2002Two thirds skyHazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre, NSWGroup
2002The Utopia SixFlinders Lane GalleryGroup
2001Icons of Australian Aboriginal ArtSingaporeGroup
2001Group ExhibitionBrisbane City GalleryGroup
2001Kunst der GegenwartVienna, AustriaGroup
2001Group ExhibitionManawatu Gallery, New ZealandGroup
2000Group ExhibitionAustralian National University, CanberraGroup
2000Group ExhibitionFireworks Gallery, BrisbaneGroup
2000Group ExhibitionAustralian National University, ACTGroup
2000Group ExhibitionOld Parliament House, Canberra, ACTGroup
1999Gloria PetyarreFlinders Lane Gallery- Melbourne, VICSolo
1999Gloria PetyarreRed Desert Gallery, Eumundi, QueenslandSolo
1999Gloria PetyarreNew England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, NSWSolo
1999WildflowersMbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NTSolo
1999Bush GardenJapingka Gallery, FremantleGroup
1999Group ExhibitionArt Gallery of Western AustraliaGroup
1999Group ExhibitionEmbassy of Australia, Washington, USAGroup
1999Group ExhibitionFine Arts Museums of San Francisco, USAGroup
1999Group ExhibitionNew England Regional Art MuseumGroup
1999Group ExhibitionArt Gallery of Western AustraliaGroup
1999Group ExhibitionNew Leaves, Utopia Art SydneyGroup
1999Group ExhibitionQuadrivium Gallery, SydneyGroup
1999UtopiaBMG Art, AdelaideGroup
1999Arts d'AustralieBastille, ParisGroup
1999Group ExhibitionWynne Prize exhibition Winning entryGroup
1998Gloria PetyarreRobert Steele Gallery, Adelaide, SASolo
1998Utopia ArtSydney, NSWSolo
1998Gloria PetyarreChapman Gallery, Canberra, ACTSolo
1998Gloria PetyarreCampbelltown Bicentennial Art Gallery, Campbelltown, NSWSolo
1998The Anangkere Growth PaintingsChapman Gallery, Canberra;Group
1998Group ExhibitionAnnandale Galleries, SydneyGroup
1998Exhibitions in EuropeBelgium, Germany, Netherlands, SwitzerlandGroup
1998Group ExhibitionAraluen Arts Centre, Alice SpringsGroup
1998Group ExhibitionChapman Gallery, CanberraGroup
1998Group ExhibitionThe Adelaide Festival TheatreGroup
1998Propositions AustraliennesGalerie Luc Queyrel, ParisGroup
1997Instant PicturesUtopia Art Sydney, NSWSolo
1997Group ExhibitionAustralian Galleries, SydneyGroup
1997Instant PicturesUtopia Art Sydney, NSWGroup
1997Group ExhibitionGalerie de Stassart, BruxellesGroup
1997Group ExhibitionSutton Gallery, MelbourneGroup
1996Gloria PetyarreFireworks Gallery, Brisbane, QLDSolo
1996In 1996 and 1999 at Group ExhibitionSherman Galleries, SydneyGroup
1996Group ExhibitionSeoul Arts Centre, KoreaGroup
1996Group ExhibitionOld Parliament House, CanberraGroup
1996Group ExhibitionNiagara Galleries, MelbourneGroup
1996Group ExhibitionWilliam Mora Galleries, MelbourneGroup
1995Gloria Petyarre: On the LineUtopia Art Sydney, NSWSolo
1995Group ExhibitionMitchell Galleries, State Library of NSWGroup
1995Group ExhibitionNational Gallery of AustraliaGroup
1995Group ExhibitionAboriginal and Tribal Art Centre, Sydney Group
1995Group ExhibitionCanberra Museum of Art, Gifu, JapanGroup
1995Group ExhibitionNational Gallery of Victoria, MelbourneGroup
1995Group ExhibitionPowerhouse Museum, SydneyGroup
1994Gloria PetyarreUtopia Art Sydney, NSWSolo
1994Group ExhibitionUtopia Art Sydney, NSWGroup
1994Masterpieces of Aboriginal ArtNational Gallery of VictoriaGroup
1993Group ExhibitionArt Gallery of Queensland, BrisbaneGroup
1993Group ExhibitionAustral Gallery, St Louis, USAGroup
1993Group ExhibitionAustralian Embassy, Paris, FranceGroup
1993Group ExhibitionMyra Morgan Gallery, Kansas, USAGroup
1992In 1994, 1995, 1999 at Group ExhibitionGallery Gabrielle Pizzi, MelbourneGroup
1992In 1992, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2002 at Group ExhibitionRoyal Exhibition Hall, MelbourneGroup
1992Group ExhibitionGallery Rai, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1992Group ExhibitionNational Gallery of Australia, CanberraGroup
1992The Body Paint CollectionBishop Museum, HawaiiGroup
1992The Body Paint Collectiontoured USAGroup
1992Robert Homes a'Court CollectionBangkok, ThailandGroup
1991From 1991 to 1996 at Group ExhibitionSH Ervin Gallery, SydneyGroup
1991In 1991, 1994 and 1995 at Group ExhibitionArt Gallery of NSWGroup
1991Group ExhibitionAustralia Galleries, New York, USAGroup
1991Group ExhibitionMeat Market Gallery, MelbourneGroup
1990UtopiaExhibited in Ireland, UK and IndiaGroup
1990Group ExhibitionOrange Regional GalleryGroup
1990Group ExhibitionTandanya, AdelaideGroup
1990Group ExhibitionThird Eye Centre, GlasgowGroup
1989Group ExhibitionAustral Gallery, St Louis, USAGroup
1989Group ExhibitionCoventry Gallery, SydneyGroup
1989A Summer ProjectSHErvin Gallery, Sydney, NSWGroup
1989Utopia BatikArulen Centre, Alice SpringsGroup
1989Group ExhibitionNational Gallery of Australia, CanberraGroup
1988Group ExhibitionBloomfield Gallery, SydneyGroup
1984First National Aboriginal Art Award ExhibitionAGNT, DarwinGroup