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Violet Petyarre


Violet Petyarre was born circa 1946 at Atnagkere, on the western boundary of Utopia Station, 250kms, north-east of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia. Violet belongs to the Anmatyerr clan group and speaks Eastern Anmatyerr with English as a second language, settled at Iylently (Mosquito Bore) near Utopia Station with her seven sisters, including Kathleen, Gloria, Nancy, Myrtle, Ada and Gina establishing a family camp which she still frequently re-visits today.


Violet commenced painting on batik and silk in 1977 and in 1988 started to paint with acrylics on canvas. She shares the Dreamings: Arnkerrth (Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming) Engcarma (Bean) Unyara (Emu) Annlara (Pencil Yam) Kadjeta (Grass Seeds) Elaitchurunga (Small Brown Grass) Awelye (women’s body paint design) with her sisters Ada, Myrtle, Jeannie, Nancy, Gloria and Kathleen. Originally working with batik tie-dying Violet’s artistic endeavours commenced 1977, with Batik Colours were then applied and these bright fabric panels were then sewn into garments that were welcomed by the Utopia women. Also Violet used woodblock printing techniques, in which her Dreaming references were burnt into wood with hot wire and then ‘stamped’ onto fabric. Violet delicately portrayed her Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming through complex lines and dotting drawn on silk textiles (National Gallery of Victoria Collection).


In 1988 her works-on-canvas followed this style, which she produced alongside her sister Kathleen Petyarre and her Aunt, the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye. With other Utopia women, Violet first works-on-canvas evolved through a special local project entitled ‘Utopia Women’s Paintings - A Summer Project 1988-1989’ (The Holmes a’ Court Collection). This project engendered a new direction of artistic output, launching Utopia as a major centre for Indigenous art and placing it firmly within the context of the Australian contemporary art scene.


During the 1990s Violet oeuvre shifted with her Body painting series which portrays a more structured composition: the essence of her Dreaming laid bare, stripped of adornment, powerfully evoking true abstract expressionism form. In 2007, she continued artistic experimentation through the introduction of bold new colours, giving her celebrated works a bright new contemporary lustre. Violet has firmly positioned herself as a major exponent of the ever-evolving Utopian and Australian contemporary art movements. Currently she divides her time between Iylently, Adelaide and Amaroo Station. Her role as a foundation member of the Utopia arts community together with her artistic individualism has firmly endorsed her position as an important contributor to Australia’s art history.

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