Utopia Sisters: The Petyarre Women

WHEN : 5th April - 1st May
WHERE : REDSEA Gallery

This exhibition of the Petyarre women can be seen as a spotlight shining on the virtual centre of Australia, in the middle of an old cattle station called Utopia, Northern Territory. At a place where two ancient tribal lands intersect: the Alyawarre and the Anmatyerre tribes share much more than divides them.

Two groups of artists, not related genetically, but who call each other skin group “sisters”, share in an intricate and harmonious tribal kinship system that connects them and their culture in a very special way.

The Anmatyerre sisters, Gloria, Kathleen and Violet Petyarre, are well established in the world art scene, having received many accolades, achieving awards and recognition both nationally and internationally. The Alyawarre sisters, Susie, Annie and Jessie Petyarre, also live on Utopia, and have mainly stayed out of the limelight – although they have been painting exquisite work for 27 years.

For nearly 30 years, the Holt Family ran Delmore Gallery, from the adjacent cattle station to Utopia. In that time, exceptionally close relationships were formed between the artists and the Holts, who wholeheartedly encouraged the diversity of the art being produced.

What is to be admired about these desert works is the combination of visual austerity and grandeur that they embody, evoking the sacred in ways rarely witnessed. The aesthetic of desert art is a sublime marriage of the quintessential and the iconic: we are seduced by the formal brilliance and spectacular colours of these desert acrylics. The subtleties and mysteries of contemporary Australian Aboriginal art speak powerfully of our country and the cultural history of many thousands of years of mythology.

The diversity on show in this exhibition brings many works, some never before seen in public, from little known, emerging artists like Susie, Jessie, Annie, Dorrie and Maisie, to be seen alongside the likes of Gloria Petyarre, who is the most recognised living female Aboriginal artist. It is a wonderful representation of the variety of interpretive practices explored by these women of Utopia.

Don Holt, owner of Delmore Gallery, says of these works: “These eight Petyarre women all did their first acrylic paintings on linen for Delmore Gallery in 1989, realising their achievements, they were inspired to pursue their individuality and unique talents. I am very proud to able to show these artists and their exceptionally high quality works in one place together”. Delmore Gallery has been involved in supplying exquisite Aboriginal artworks and curating over fifty exhibitions worldwide and are excited to be collaborating with REDSEA Gallery to bring this exhibition to reality.

“Utopia Sisters” is a unique exhibition, and the first indigenous show at REDSEA Gallery. Lee Steer, owner of REDSEA Gallery says, “This exhibition is an exciting and important collaboration between galleries. We believe in empowering Aboriginal artists and maintaining the importance of Australia’s history. This stimulating collection has rarely been viewed in a single location and REDSEA Gallery is proud to bring attention to the diversity and strength of Australian Aboriginal art”.

Image: Gloria Petyarre