Obituary: Kudditji Kngwarreye

  Our dear old friend, Kudditji Kngwarreye passed away peacefully last week.  The Aboriginal Art Association of Australia broke the news after calling Old Timers Village in Alice Springs and confirming the news with the nurses.  We send our condolences to the family and the Utopia communities. Upon reflection of this Old Man’s life, we realise that he lived through a time of seismic change. His country was given the name Utopia by German Settlers, who transformed the land in to cattle stations.  He became a skilled stockman, which in recent years we as a nation have begun to recognise the key role Aboriginal people played in the development in the cattle industry in Australia. Kudditji witnessed the success of Albert Namatjira, and experienced the 1967 referendum. Kudditji and his countrymen had their land claim approved in 1979 and throughout the years he has felt the effects of different government policies on Indigenous people of the Northern Territory.  But throughout it all, Kudditji maintained a strong connection and intimate knowledge of Country. He was a traditional custodian of many important Dreamings, of the land and Men's Business ceremonial sites. Kudditji held the responsibility of an Elder, and frequently took the young boys/men hunting emu in these lands, merging tradition with practice as part of their initiation as men. Kudditji’s interest in art was more than likely sparked when he witnessed the great success achieved by indigenous women from Utopia in the mid to late 1980s. The women had the opportunity to take part in Batik workshops which created an opportunity to create art for an external market and establish a source of income. In 1988 the Utopia Women's Batik Group was commissioned to produce the opening exhibition for the Tandanya Aboriginal Cultural Institute in Adelaide. The 88 batiks toured internationally before being acquired by the Holmes à Court Collection in Perth. Not long after this, a project to introduce the Utopia Women's Batik Group to painting began. The resulting 1988/89 exhibition titled “A Summer Project” received great attention and coincided with the worldwide art boom that was occurring. Being a regular visitor to Alice Springs, Kudditji most probably heard of similar things occurring in Papunya and was attracted to the opportunities painting offered. It is stated that he began painting around 1986, which would coincide with the transition to the painting medium in Utopia.  Initially, his highly intuitive and gestural method of painting that he became known for was not welcomed by galleries.  Instead, he was encouraged to paint in the fashionable style of the time, executing works with overt iconography, figurative elements and detailed infill. After seeing the great Utopian artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye catapult on to the Australian and International Art scene using a technique similar to his, Kudditji resumed his exploration of the abstract.  Encouraged by Mike Mitchell of Muk Muk Art and after intensive workshopping and trialling, the quintessential Kudditji brushwork emerged. Through kinship, Kudditji was the brother of Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Although not related in the eyes of the non-indigenous art lover, the common name was a selling point used by many galleries when Kudditji first arrived on to the scene.  Initially, it was a way to attract the interest of the Australian art market that may not have understood the subtle and compelling connections to culture and country found in Kudditji’s art, but certainly understood the collectability of anything associated with Emily.  Soon, however, the name Kudditji spoke volumes.  His art spoke for itself and he needed no help by way of reflected glory from his skin sister, Emily.  For international collectors of contemporary art, Kudditji quickly became an obvious addition. They saw mastery in his paint handling technique and appreciated his floating fields of luminous colour.  Whilst many international visitors compared him to the great American abstract impressionist, Mark Rothko, Kudditji was totally unaware of any similarities.  He was just painting his country, his Dreamings, his way. From 1990 onwards Kudditji was selected for numerous international exhibitions, playing an important role in showcasing the depth and diversity of Indigenous Australian art. From the early 2000s Kudditji based himself in Alice Springs, not only because his art career was starting to take off, but due to his health requiring more constant access to medical facilities. In 2006 he was exhibited at the Arken Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, attracting huge critical acclaim.  Later the same year, he was named as one of the top 50 most collectible artists in Australia by Art Collector magazine.  In 2013, Kate Owen Gallery presented the exhibition ‘The Master Returns’ – a long-awaited new body of work by Kudditji and his first since overcoming a difficult battle with illness. We weren’t sure what to expect, but the results were phenomenal. He appeared re-invigorated, not only in a health sense but in his approach to his work; bold, strong, assertive, energised and compelling are some of the words that come to mind when I think back on that exhibition. Gallery Owner and Director, Mr Geoff Henderson commented at the time, “Quite simply, this is the most powerful and compelling body of works I’ve seen from him”.  While painting, Kudditji could be heard singing. On one level it was a way of infusing his works with stories of the land; the ancestors, hunts, travels and the food and water of Anmatyerre country. On other levels, the act of painting reminded him of home and his singing was his way of maintaining his bond with his country, far away from Alice Springs. He painted the country he longed to see again, and, at least in that moment of singing and painting, he returned to his country, if only in his heart and mind.  Kudditji’s art has also been the exemplar of the ideological riddle that has nagged at the art world for years; can contemporary Aboriginal art effectively transition from the exhibit rooms of specialist Indigenous galleries, to being celebrated alongside international contemporary art?  While the argument appears quite straightforward – as to be contemporary simply means to be of one’s time – writers such as Christopher Allen have put forward that Aboriginal art, as “the expression of a culture that could not possibly be more conservative, traditional and conventional, poses a conundrum.”(2008) However, from Nicolas Rothwell’s recent review of AGNSW exhibition ‘Art from Milingimbi- Taking Memories Back’ I can’t help but deduce that a balance is being achieved, where galleries are placing once perceived ethnographic content (or beautiful artistic expression that has, in the past been weighted with air of mysterious ethnograph-ique around it), in the context of a gallery space. Thorough curatorial research and collaboration with scholars and holders of Indigenous tradition is being married with more aesthetic considerations.  This is resulting in distinct schools of expression being celebrated within the large umbrella of ‘Aboriginal Art’ and a growing appreciation that somehow Australian Aboriginal Art bridges the chasm from the deeply traditional to the contemporary. To this day, Kudditji remains an artist with a singular aesthetic quality. His art can stand alone as exceptional contemporary works and he has pioneered a highly intuitive gestural method of painting; mixing paints on the canvas creating vibrant and colour saturated spaces, the colours shifting as the ambient light changes. However, as with many indigenous artists, Kudditji would be amused by such esoteric matters, dismissive of and disinterested in debate on the subject.  For him, his art remained his own expression of the ancient stories that he was the custodian of.  How the non-indigenous world chose to categorise his work was not something that ever occupied his mind.  What remained paramount was the story, however abstract his representation of it may have been, that his art told. Artists around the world were inspired by the work of this great man, including Melbourne-based painter Vincent Fantauzzo (a four-time Archibald People’s Choice Award winner). Vincent’s 2016 exhibition Last Contact at Nada Hobbs Gallery showcased five triptychs; each containing a portrait of a great Central Australian artist, together with a painting by the Indigenous artist and a landscape by Fantuazzo. His great affection and respect for Kudditji is undeniable “"He kind of looks like a character from Lord of the Rings but there's nothing fake about him. Everything is genuine and real." Fantauzzo has commented on the sense of urgency he felt to complete his portrait, when in 2015 Kudditji fell ill and there were fears he may not recover. "I get goosebumps thinking about it. That's the time when I realised what he meant to me and what he taught me." Fantuazzo entered his portrait of Kngwarreye in the 2015 Archibald Prize as well as Kngwarreye’s artwork in the Wynne Prize. Neither painting was shown in the finalist exhibition. In 2015 Kudditji became too weak to carry on painting and retired to Old Timers Village where he lived out the remainder of his days in peace, surrounded by his countrymen. Kudditji's songs will continue to echo through his beautiful artworks, which now hang in galleries, private collections, homes and offices all over the world. Travel safely home to Anmatyerre Country Old Man. You will be missed.

Journey Tracks | Tony Sorby's First Solo Show at Kate Owen Gallery | 9 February 5 March

There are many great pleasures working at Kate Owen Gallery, but none gives me more joy than meeting the artists and hearing their stories. When Tony Sorby arrives with his latest body of work, you’re greeted with a smile and sense of joy that lights up a room. A powerful optimism which I believe reverberates through his art with its graphic quality, a technique which may have originated from his mastery of marquetry as a young man. Tony Sorby stands before you as a proud Kamilaroi man. The Kamilaroi Nation is one of the largest Indigenous Nations in Australia. Kamilaroi country stretches from as far as the Hunter Valley in NSW through to Nindigully in QLD and as far west as the Warrumbungle Mountains near Coonabarabran in NSW, sweeping across the Liverpool Plains.  For generations, government policies attempted to sever the Kamilaroi people’s cultural connection to family and country, and Tony Sorby stands as a walking history of the great upheavals that shook the community during the twentieth century. Spending time with Tony, you hear snippets of tales from his early life, a story known all too well for the Koori community of the East Coast but perhaps still confronting for people who have not lived it; mission life, orphanages,  in and out of foster homes and institutions, run ins with the police. A story that has been told before that usually leaves audiences feeling paralysed with despair. But Tony uses his talents to lift people up. He’s able to tell his personal story in a manner that always brings audiences together; to reflect on the hurt we cause one another but also the healing that can take place and let us rise above it all. Tony’s art, much like the man himself, has an optimistic approach. It tells of walking in the footsteps of his ancestors; returning to country and learning of his culture and identity. Seeking inspiration from the land, creeks and rivers. He paints what has brought so much comfort and happiness to his own life. His journey tracks are alive with history, historical and personal stories. His art is a powerful statement of survival and resilience. Tony Sorby’s art has continued to develop and we are proud to showcase this exquisite new body of work in our Charcoal Gallery – the first of what I hope will be many solo shows.    ONLINE EXHIBITION will be available from Thursday 9 Februrary

Artwork of the Week: Untitled by Angelina Nampijinpa Tasman 46 x 107cm

Created in Yuendumu in 2016  About the Artist Angelina is an exciting artist from Yuendumu and paints for Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation. She was born in 1951 at Mount Doreen Station and moved to the remote community of Yuendumu (roughly 300kms North West of Alice Springs) when she was a little girl. After completing school, Angelina worked in the local store and then as an assistant teacher. Being a mother to her five children and grandmother duties have kept her rather busy, but she started painting for Warlukurlangu in 2004. She began painting in earnest in 2007 and over the last 10 years has developed a number of unique styles to express her fathers and grandfather's Dreamings, as well as the features and animals that inhabit the land.    About the Artwork Warlukurlangu provide beautiful Certificates of Authenticity for all of their artworks, which includes the artwork story; The site depicted in this painting is Pirlinyarnu (Mt. Farewell), about 165 km west of Yuendumu in the Northern Territory. The ‘kirda’ (owners) for the water Dreaming site at Pirlinyarnu are Nangala/Nampijinpa women and Jangala/Jampijinpa men. Two Jangala men, rainmakers, sang the rain, unleashing a giant storm that collided with another storm from Wapurtali at Mirawarri. A ‘kirrkarlanji’ (brown falcon [Falco berigora]) carried the storm further west from Mirawarri. The two storms travelled across the country from Karlipirnpa, a ceremonial site for the water Dreaming near Kintore that is owned by members of the Napaljarri/Japaljarri and Napanangka/Japanangka subsections. Along the way the storms passed through Juntiparnta, a site that is owned by Jampijinpa men. The storm eventually became too heavy for the falcon. It dropped the water at Pirlinyarnu, where it formed an enormous ‘maluri’ (claypan). A ‘mulju’ (soakage) exists in this place today. Whenever it rains today, hundreds of ‘ngapangarlpa’ (bush ducks) still flock to Pirlinyarnu. Why we LOVE this Artwork The artists from Warlukurlangu have become well known for using bold, contrasting colours that somehow just work brilliantly together. In this work, Angelina has used subtle but surprising colour combinations, that keeps the piece fresh and interesting every time your eyes travel across the canvas - there always seems to be something that grabs your attention that you didn't notice the previous time. Angelia has also built up layers of dot work, giving the piece great depth and sophistication. There is a profound energy to the piece without it being overpowering.             Angelina is expressing an ancient story, but there is a beautiful contemporary aesthetic to this piece which means it can sit comfortably in a home or office space. Because it is essentially an aerial perspective of the land, there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to hang the artwork. The shape is also incredibly elegant and versatile. Here's my little digital hang of a home office space where I think this piece could happily sit and provide tremendous inspiration!   Image courtesy myhome.ru

Sorry Business: Vale Trevor 'Turbo' Brown

Sad News I'm afraid - we have just got word that the much loved artist, Trevor 'Turbo' Brown, has passed away quite suddenly. The KOG Crew are shocked and deeply saddened by the news, and out of respect we have removed all of his artwork from our website until we have time to process the announcement. We took great delight in sharing Turbo's deadly depictions of the Dreamtime with his first solo show at KOG back in 2014. Since then, he's had a strong following and continued to collect an impressive collection of accolades, awards and exhibitions. Just last year he was Highly Commended at the Cossak Art Awards, and selected for Sovereignty, a major exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, focusing on the contemporary art of First Nations peoples of South East Australia.  There were times in Turbo's life when he did it tough, but his wit, street-smarts and flair gave him a strength of character, a resilience, and an endearing personality which I think is evident in his work. He moved everyone lucky enough to spend time with him. I will continue to smile every time I see Turbo's Art - and like to think he has travelled safely home to his Latje Latje Country. Farewell Turbo, you will be sorely missed.   Kate Owen Gallery sends our deepest condolences the the family and the Koorie Communities. 

October Artist in Residence: Sarrita King

Image © Saville Coble Fresh from her recent travels to central Australia, Sarrita King joins Kate Owen Gallery as our resident artist in October Expect to see some exciting new styles as Sarrita draws upon the inspiration gained from her reconnection with her desert roots and her fellow artists.   Image © Saville Coble Sarrita will be in the gallery 8 October - 23 October 12 - 6 mondays, thursdays & fridays  10 - 6 weekends

Sarrita King - Our Inaugural Artist In Residence

Back in 2009, Kate Owen Gallery was proud to present the 3 Kings exhibition, where Sarrita and Tarisse paid homage to their father, the highly respected artist and elder, William King Jungala (1966 – 2007). Back then, the girls wove their own styles with that of their father and produced fascinating interplays of colour, design, heritage and spirit.  While still at the early stages of their careers, we could tell that the girls were set to become big names in the Aboriginal Art world. Flash forward five years, and the King Sisters have cemented themselves as the exciting next generation of Aboriginal artists. Still honouring their father’s stories, the sisters have matured and developed their own unique style which has seen them displayed in galleries throughout Australia and around the world. Their works are vibrant, striking and contemporary. Sarrita King became a household name after one of her ‘Earth Cycles’ paintings featured on The Block All Stars (2013) and truly set the space off. Since then it has been a whirlwind for Sarrita, as she continues to grow in popularity both in Australia and overseas, particularly in Europe. We are thrilled Sarrita has accepted our invitation to be our inaugural artist in residence. Sarrita’s philosophy in life and art is that it is all about sharing; storytelling through art, bringing the viewer in to her culture and creating a connection. Visitors to the gallery during our artist in residency program are in for a treat!  Watch this space as we will post some photos and interviews with Sarrita in the gallery shortly! Meet Sarrita at the Gallery in September Saturday 13th + Sunday 14th Saturday 20th + Sunday 21st 11am – 1pm + 3pm-5pm no bookings necessary!   

Tjapaltjarri Sale 20% - 70% off!

Tjapaltjarri Aboriginal Art Sale 20% - 70% off all Tjapaltjarri artists- Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri,
Dr George Ward Tjapaltjarri, Hilary Tjapaltjarri, Mick Namarari Japaljarri, Paddy Japaljarri Sims, Thomas Tjapaltjarri, Walala Tjapaltjarri, Warlimpirringa Tjapaltjarri [More]

Easter Holiday Trading Hours

Australian Aboriginal Art Gallery Open Easter long weekend. Visit us this weekend or view our Aboriginal Art Gallery Online. New Aboriginal Art, Sale Aboriginal Art and Collectible Aboriginal Art. [More]

Gallery News

latest news from Kate Owen Gallery - contemporary aboriginal art [More]

Vast Interiors

a fusion of contemporary interior design and aboriginal art 21 February - 9 March 2014    Do you look at shots like these and wonder how can I get that look in my place? We've noticed a lot of our clients have specific interior needs, so we have fused the art of interior design and Aboriginal art in this exciting exhibition! Four renowned interior designers will transform Kate Owen Gallery and we will have a fine dining, living, bedroom & staircase installation showcasing some fantastic design pieces and, of course, some sensational Aboriginal art! Visit the gallery to chat with the designers and our art consultants about your specific interior needs & book a free consultation for your home or office. We will have an opening expo this Saturday with drinks & canapes so come by with a group of friends and be inspired! opening expoSaturday 22 February 11 - 4 click here to find out more about this exhibition  

about our gallery

KO LogoThe Kate Owen Gallery specialises in quality, contemporary Australian Aboriginal artworks, individually selected to bring that 'wow factor' to modern interiors.  Most of our visitors are amazed to see the wide range of different expression adopted by our indigenous artists.  Many who previously had no interest in Aboriginal Art, have their 'eyes opened' to it for the first time, by the sheer beauty and diversity around them.

About the Authors

Entries can come from any of us:

Daniel, Nick, Surrey, Kirby, Liz, Sandra, Jen or me (Geoff).