Experience the art of Emily Kam Kngwarray at the National Gallery of Australia

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Experience the art of Emily Kam Kngwarray at the National Gallery of Australia
Installation view, Emily Kam Kngwarray, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, 2023. Photo by: Jed Cooper.

CANBERRA.- Starting today, this survey exhibition celebrates the timeless art of Emily Kam Kngwarray – pre-eminent Australian artist and one of the world’s most significant contemporary artists to emerge in the early twentieth century.

A senior Anmatyerr woman from Utopia (north-east of Mparntwe/Alice Springs), the unprecedented trajectory of Kngwarray’s recognition and fame as an artist is well known, way beyond the Country of her origins. Kngwarray’s power and cultural authority is outstandingly revealed in the works of art themselves.

Co-curated by Kelli Cole, Warumunga and Luritja peoples, and Hetti Perkins, Arrernte and Kalkadoon peoples, Emily Kam Kngwarray brings together important works of Kngwarray’s career, from early vibrant batiks to her later monumental paintings. Many never-before-seen works are included in this exhibition, along with new acquisitions of Kngwarray’s seminal works in the national collection.

‘Kngwarray created thousands of works of art that drew from the vast cultural reservoir of knowledge that she channeled as an Anmatyerr matriarch of Alhalker,’ said Perkins.

‘Her familial connection to her homelands and its associated stories are revealed in her artworks and are unprecedented in Australian art.’

Kngwarray’s identity and work as an artist was integrally related to her position in the community of Anmatyerr women at Utopia. In preparing for the exhibition, co-curators Cole and Perkins, along with linguist Dr Jennifer Green, undertook extensive community consultation.

‘We’ve been working in collaboration with the family and community of Utopia of the Urapuntja homelands in the Sandover Region to offer nuanced analyses that acknowledge both the cultural specificity of Kngwarray’s inspiration and the majestic scope of Country and its ancestral inheritances,’ Cole said.

‘This exhibition is a reminder that the stories and places Kngwarray painted are enduring, the culture that informed them is very much alive.’

Emily Kam Kngwarray runs until Sunday 28 April 2024. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue offering new insights into Emily Kam Kngwarray’s life and work. The 256-page publication features original research and reflections from the artist’s community, curators and academics.

Emily Kam Kngwarray has been made possible through the continued generosity of individual and corporate supporters, including Principal Patrons: Michael Gannon and Helen Gannon; Strategic Partner: Seven West Media; Indigenous Art Partner: Wesfarmers Arts; Major Partners: Qantas, Maddocks and ISPT; Major Patrons: Sally White OAM and Geoffrey White OAM; Supporting Partner: Capital Hotel Group; Supporting Patrons: Dr Michael Martin and Elizabeth Popovski, Roslyn Packer AC; Exhibition Patrons: Ilana Atlas AO and Tony D’Aloisio AM, Penelope Seidler AM, The Hon Ashley Dawson-Damer AM; Cultural Partners: Utopia Arts Centre, Desart (the peak body for Central Australian art centres); Exhibition Supporters: Fiona Martin-Weber and Tom Hayward, The Tall Foundation. A generous philanthropic gift from anonymous benefactors has enabled extensive consultation with the Utopia community and Kngwarray’s extended family.

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