Artwork of the Week: Awelye by Charmaine Pwerle 122 x 183cm

About the Artist:

Charmaine Pwerle is the daughter of artist Barbara Weir and granddaughter of Minnie Pwerle. Charmaine was born in Alice Springs in 1975 and has four daughters, a son and a step-daughter. Charmaine attended the Utopia school until the age of 7 when she was sent to Adelaide to improve her education. She returned to Utopia at the age of 10 and once again went to Utopia School for a year, then on to Saint Phillips College in Alice Springs. She attended Alice Springs High School before returning to Utopia for a few years, finally moving back to Adelaide to complete her studies. 

In 1992 Charmaine returned to Utopia and worked for Urapuntja Council as the junior administration assistant. During this time Charmaine lived with her mother Barbara Weir and grandparents Minnie Pwerle and Motorcar Jim at Soakage Bore - an outstation on Utopia Station.  During her years at Utopia, Charmaine immersed herself in the culture, ceremony, stories and traditions passed down to her by her grandmothers.   As well as being surrounded by indigenous culture and ceremony, Charmaine has always been surrounded by her artist relations including Emily Kngwarreye, Gloria Petyarre, her mother Barbara Weir and grandmother Minnie Pwerle.  Having watched them paint from a young age, it seemed natural to Charmaine that she would want to paint.

About the Artwork:

Charmaine’s grandmother came from a region called Atnwengerrp at Utopia and it is this country and its ceremonial influences that Charmaine depicts in her paintings.  Awelye, the title of the painting, refers to women’s ceremonies and body paint. As part of preparation for ceremony, the women anoint each other’s chests and shoulders with designs using powders ground from ochre, charcoal and ash.  The powders and water are made into a paste and applied with a flat stick or with fingers in raw linear and curved lines. The particular designs used depend on the participants’ Dreamings, the stories that they are responsible for and the occasion. The larger circles on the painting represent the sites where ceremonies are held, the smaller circles represent bush melon and the lines show the movement of the women during the ceremony.

Why we LOVE this Artwork:

Charmaine approaches the canvas with confidence. Her lines are bold and sure, influenced by the style of her grandmother Minnie Pwerle, but still clearly still with her own manner of expression. It is easy to get lost in this highly expressive painting, as your eyes travel across the canvas, and every time we view the piece something new emerges and captures our attention. Charmaine is not afraid to experiment with bold colour combinations, sometimes mixing the paints on the canvas and creating beautiful hues. This a particularly beautiful and sophisticated colour combination, which could work in a range of settings.  What is also so intriguing about this piece is its dualistic quality; being both strong and powerful while at the same time being gentle and soothing.  This piece just has that ‘wow’ factor and is attracting a lot of attention at the gallery.

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