In the mid 70s when Utopia became an Aboriginal freehold property the Alyawarr and Anmatyerr people moved from the surrounding pastoral stations to settle in camps on the north western part of Utopia.
The Aboriginal art movement began on Utopia around this time with the introduction of the Utopia Women's Batik activities. The women were initially taught tie-dying and batiking T-shirts before venturing into the silk medium. The most senior woman - Emily Kame Kngwarreye - was a founding member of this group. She has since been acclaimed as the most important central Australian artist of her generation.
The first major community project initiated by the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) and Rodney Gooch resulted in an exhibition of 88 batiks, up to three metres in length which was acquired by the Robert Holmes a Court Collection in 1988.
This collection of batiks entitled Utopia – A Picture Story was shown in Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and travelled to Ireland, Germany, Paris and Bangkok.
The second project initiated by CAAMA in 1988-9 was the women's first experience in painting on canvas. One hundred uniformly sized canvases were stretched, primed and distributed to the artists. Of the eighty artists who were involved in this project, the majority worked in the traditional colours of black, white, ochre and red. They produced an extraordinary body of work entitled – Utopia Women's Paintings - the First Works on Canvas - A Summer Project 1988-9 which was exhibited at the S.H. Erwin Gallery in Sydney and Orange Grove Regional Gallery, NSW, Australia. Further projects initiated by Rodney Gooch and CAAMA included The Body Paint - Awelye - collection, The Watercolour Collection, 1989, the CAAMA/Utopia Artists-in-Residence Project Louie Pwerle and Emily Kame Kngwarreye 1989-90 and One Dreaming (Yam Story) in 1992.
Thus the artists had made the transition from batik to acrylic on canvas and linen and Utopian art was launched onto the international stage.
The demand for paintings from the artists of Utopia continues and artists have exhibited throughout Europe including France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, England, Italy, Japan and U.S.A. Utopia artists are represented in many public collections in state and regional galleries all over Australia.
A Dreaming name denotes a Dreamtime being, a site associated with that Dreaming and the country surrounding that site. Woodrow W. Denham, Alyawarre Ethnographic Archive
Central desert Aboriginal art depicts the Dreaming of their Ancestors. The artist paints the journeys, actions, sacred objects, designs and sites associated with their Ancestors.
The artists use iconography and abstract imagery to depict the sacred ceremony or the site pertaining to that dreaming.
The paintings refer to the sacred sites where the Dreaming occurs and where the power is still all pervasive. The symbols or signs denote places and sites or the tracks and pathways of the Ancestor. The Dreamings, often painted from an aerial perspective are abstract in form and lend themselves to various interpretations – the sacred and the public.
Widely used imagery includes for example, concentric circles usually represent a group of people or site or place, a campsite or a water/rockhole. These are places of great significance. The u-shapes can represent the sitting figure and the indentation they leave with their haunches. Tracks of the Ancestral beings and animals are represented by meandering or straight lines. Arcs can represent boomerangs. Short straight lines represent digging sticks or clapping sticks and spears. A morass of dots can represent the topography of the artist's country or homeland.
There are several theories on the origination of the dot-style of painting. One theory is that they imitate the markings for the ground ceremonial paintings. These ephemeral works are fashioned out of daubed dots of ochres and bird down and other materials. Spinifex, bushes, shrubs and other clumped grasses form a dot-like pattern across the desert landscape resulting in a dotted landscape when viewed from above. The Aboriginal views his country - his ancestral sites - from this aerial perspective.
(Photo: Artist Sandy Pitjara Hunter, © Eastern Desert Art)
Eastern Desert Art ABN: 79 722 554 907
Tel: (08) 8956 9433 (Australia wide) or +618 8956 9433 (international)
Fax: (08) 8956 9177 (Australia wide) or +618 8956 9177 (international)
Listed prices are $AUD exclusive of GST. Australian customers pay GST on listed price.