Kathleen Petyarre

Kathleen Petyarre, one of Australia’s most prominent artists uses a distinctive painting style to represent her knowledge of her country and people. Born circa 1940 in atnagkere, an important water soakage for Aboriginal people 270km from Alice Springs, Kathleen belonged to the Eastern Anmatyerre clan. Her first experience with art began in 1977 at organised batik workshops. Settling in Utopia with her daughters, Kathleen went on to work for the Utopia art school for some twenty years. 

Kathleen became an artist in her own right when she participated in CAAMA’s summer project of 1988 – 1989. With a developed and distinctive style Kathleen went on to amass recognition for her minimalistic and yet intricate art work. Using a fine dotting technique incorporating volumes of layering effects, Kathleen depicted the dreamings passed down to her from her mother and father. Most notably Kathleen paints the Mountain Devil Lizard. Her interpretation of this sacred creature follows its journey across her land in the creation era. The lizard is deemed extremely sacrosanct in her traditional culture as it has yet to be seen drinking water. Kathleen also paints her inherited dreamings of thorny devil lizard, women hunting, emu, and bush seeds. 

Kathleen has also contributed significantly as an activist for Aboriginal rights. She most notably participated as an advocate for land titles, successfully resulting in the return of Utopia to traditional ownership in 1979.

Her mesmerising art work has not only seen her repeatedly nominated as a top 50 collectible artist for Australia, or included in numerous private and public exhibitions worldwide, but winner of the 1996 prestigious Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Telstra Art Award. Kathleen is undoubtedly a talented and sought after artist.

Kathleen Petyarre’s artwork resonates deeply with her culture and land, with a profound connection prevalent in her exquisite interpretations. Her detailed and time consuming method of applying individual dots to represent her mental map of the land gives a strong sense of originality to Kathleen’s work. Kathleen continues to paint and be a sought after artist in the indigenous and contemporary Australian art scene. 


  • 1996 Overall Winner of the Telstra 13th National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Darwin, NT, Australia.
  • 1997 Overall Winner of the Visy Board Art Prize, the Barossa Vintage Festival Art Show, Nurioopta SA, Australia.
  • 1998 Finalist, 1998 Seppelts Contemporary Art Award - Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW Australia.
  • 1998 Winner, People's Choice Award, 1998 Seppelts Contemporary Art Award, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Selected Exhibitions

  • 1991 Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1995 Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, Germany
  • 1998 Arnkerrthe - My Dreaming, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne VIC, Australia, 24 July - 15 August
  • 1999 Recent Paintings by Kathleen Petyarre, Coo-ee Gallery, Mary Place, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 4 - 21 November
  • 2000 Kathleen Petyarre, Retrospective Exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  • 2000 New Directions in Contemporary Aboriginal Painting, Songlines Gallery, San Francisco CA, USA
  • 2001 Genius of Place. The work of Kathleen Petyarre. Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney NSW, Australia
  • 2002 Gallerie Commines, Paris, France
  • 2006 Galerie Clément, Vevey, Switzerland
  • 2006 Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA
  • 2006 National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC, USA
  • 2006 Prism - Contemporary Australian Art at the Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan
  • 2007 Galerie Rigassi, Bern, Switzerland
  • 2007 Gallery Anthony Curtis, Boston MA, USA

Selected Collections

  • Musée des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie, Quai Branly, Paris, France
  • Musée des Confluences, Lyon, France
  • Kunsthaus - Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg, Austria
  • Aboriginal Art Museum, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • The Vroom Collection, The Netherlands
  • Seattle Art Museum, Seattle WA, USA
  • The Kelton Foundation, Los Angeles CA, USA
  • Harvard University (Peabody-Essex Anthropology and Ethnology Museum), Salem MA, USA
  • The Levi-Kaplan Collection, Seattle WA, USA
  • The Kluge-Rhue Collection, University of West Virginia VA, USA
  • Museum Puri Lukisan, Ubud, Indonesia
  • National Gallery of Australia - Collection of H. M. Queen Elizabeth II, Canberra ACT, Australia
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney NSW, Australia
  • Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide SA, Australia
  • The Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth WA, Australia
  • The Museum & Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin NT, Australia
  • Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide SA, Australia
  • A.T.S.I.C. Collection, Adelaide SA, Australia
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne VIC, Australia
  • University of South Australia Art Museum, Adelaide SA, Australia
  • Edith Cowan University, Perth WA, Australia