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Introducing Gloria Petyarre

Awelye Bush Medicine Leaves Gloria Petyarre Introducing Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming Utopia Utopia Women's Batik Group Wynne Landscape Prize

Gloria Petyarre was born near Atnangkere Soakage in 1945. She lived a very traditional lifestyle as a child, before moving to one of the established settlements in Utopia, NT.

Gloria, her family members and her skin family, first became interested in art making by participating in the Utopia Women's Batik Group introduced in 1977 and initiated by the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association. With up to 80 members at a time, the Batik and Tie-die project became the seeding inspiration for the artists, and its tremendous success both in Australia and overseas led to another successful project introduced in 1988, again by CAAMA. This time, the artists were to paint on primed, stretched canvas finding it more exciting to work with than the silk and batik techniques they had previously used.

She merged traditional iconography and onto the new medium of silk and in doing so created a new art style. Gloria is a very dynamic and innovative artist and this has placed her in a unique position within the Contemporary Aboriginal art movement.

Throughout her career Gloria has been an ambassador for the art of her region and in 1999 Gloria won the prestigious Wynne Landscape Prize, which reaffirmed her position as one of the most talented and renowned contemporary Aboriginal artists.

The main Dreaming she paints is the ‘Bush Medicine Leaves’. The Bush Medicine Plant/Leaves refers to a species of acacia, which is used as part of traditional indigenous healing. Women collect leaves from this plant and boil them to extract the resin. The resin is then mixed with kangaroo fat, which results in a paste. This paste is used to heal bites, wounds, cuts and rashes and can also be used as an insect repellent. The leaves from the plant can also be brewed to make tea and can be used to alleviate symptoms of the common flu.

Gloria paints the leaves of the acacia plant, and her depiction of the ‘Bush Medicine Leaves’ has become iconic. Typically, she depicts the leaf of the plant in an upward movement. She will either paint a delicate, fine leaf or more recently she has been developing her style and paints a bolder, larger sized leaf.

Another important Dreaming story, which Gloria depicts is 'Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming'. The Mountain Devil Lizard is a small lizard found in the spinifex and sand plains of the desert. The Lizard is seen by Gloria, her family and her people as their spiritual Ancestor. The Mountain Devil Lizard is what created Gloria's Dreamtime stories - she has said “Little lizard put the stories for we mob - for man and woman”. Gloria and her sisters are the custodians of this Dreaming and inherited the story of the Mountain Devil Lizard from their grandmother.

Gloria also paints the subject of ‘Awelye’, which is body painting for Women’s Ceremony. Awelye is derived from the traditional practice of Aboriginal women ‘painting up’ their bodies for Ceremony. These designs are painted onto the chest, breasts, arms and thighs.


Allen, Allen & Hemsley
Art Bank Sydney
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Australian National Gallery
Campbelltown City Art Gallery
Flinders University, South Australia
Gold Coast City Art Gallery
Griffith University Collection
Holmes a Court Collection
Kerry Stokes Collection
Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery
Museum of Victoria, Melbourne
National Gallery of Victoria
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Queensland Art Gallery
Queensland University of Technology
Riddoch Art Gallery, S.A.
Supreme Court, Brisbane
The Robert Holmes a Court Collection
University of New South Wales
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, U.S.A.
Westpac, New York
James D. Wolfensohn Collection
Woollongong City Art Gallery
Woollongong University Collection
Macquarie Bank
University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Singapore Art Museum
Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory
British Museum

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