Awelye 1994

Emily Kame Kngwarreye

4 May - 28 May 2016

exhibition essay

Foreword

Emily Kame Kngwarreye

1994 Awelye

1994 was a momentous year for Emily Kame Kngwarrye. Unwell and weak, she was still determined to work.

Rodney Gooch, always trying to do the best for Kngwarreye, was reluctant to tax her resources with more work, but she was insistent.

Together we discussed options and I suggested that perhaps working on paper would be a solution. The materials were light and the scale was manageable.

Gooch delivered the new materials with no expectations other than to satisfy the request made of him. He certainly was not expecting what Kngwarreye tentatively revealed on his next visit.

I still remember his phone call. He was upbeat but cautious as he described the six sheets of paper with nothing but black lines.

In due course I showed them to James Mollison, then Director of the NGV. We stared at these six sheets for some time and then he said, Theyre just black lines on white paper, but why are they so good!

This began a body of work that was a dramatic breakthrough for Kngwarreye. These lines were awelye to her. In simple terms, body paint, but in the Anmatyerre womens understanding these lines also represented the breadth of knowledge held by the women for their beloved land,

Alhalkere. They encompassed the ceremonies, songs, dances, stories and essence of their land.

Perhaps this was why they were so good!

From a gallery perspective, this new work was very exciting, so we decided to keep it completely under wraps and not show any, or even reveal the existence of this new body of work until we exhibited it.

So for the next months we began to build a collection of paintings and works on paper, the best of which formed the exhibition, A New Direction later in the year. As Kngwarreyes health improved, bigger works were possible but all were done in a long panel format that suited Kngwarreyes capacity.

From the first six pieces came groups of works. Some stayed together as sets and others went their separate ways. Kngwarreye didnt always define exactly how things should fit together, but some groups were just so coherent they had to stay united.

To coincide with the exhibition we placed an advertisement in Art and Australia and once the edition was out, the effect was immediate. Shocked dealers began calling, some demanding an explanation for what we had done. we had killed the golden goose, what were we thinking!, this was not Kngwarreye! but it was.

Kngwarreye did not reveal this new work to others, she may have sensed what their reaction would be. Thus this body of work is quite rare in that it was created particularly by Kngwarreye, outside the pressure of the broader marketplace and without external demands.

The 1994 show opened to a really strong reaction, it was forceful demanding work that was appreciated by many and very testing of others, but Kngwarreye made an indelible impression with this new body of work and asserted herself as an artist of even greater depth and capacity.

In this exhibition we gather together a body of work that recaptures the spirit of New Directions, works that were included in her retrospectives that toured Australia and later Japan, three major paintings that traveled to the Venice Biennale in 1997 and a few works from private collections that have never been seen publicly before.

awelye 1994 is a tribute to Emily Kame Kngwarreye and perhaps the most defining body of work of her oeuvre.

Christopher Hodges

We thank those that have made their work available for this exhibition,

and thank Rudolf Talmacs for his perceptive essay written in 1994.

Foreword

Emily Kame Kngwarreye

1994 Awelye

1994 was a momentous year for Emily Kame Kngwarrye. Unwell and weak, she was still determined to work.

Rodney Gooch, always trying to do the best for Kngwarreye, was reluctant to tax her resources with more work, but she was insistent.

Together we discussed options and I suggested that perhaps working on paper would be a solution. The materials were light and the scale was manageable.

Gooch delivered the new materials with no expectations other than to satisfy the request made of him. He certainly was not expecting what Kngwarreye tentatively revealed on his next visit.

I still remember his phone call. He was upbeat but cautious as he described the six sheets of paper with nothing but black lines.

In due course I showed them to James Mollison, then Director of the NGV. We stared at these six sheets for some time and then he said, Theyre just black lines on white paper, but why are they so good!

This began a body of work that was a dramatic breakthrough for Kngwarreye. These lines were awelye to her. In simple terms, body paint, but in the Anmatyerre womens understanding these lines also represented the breadth of knowledge held by the women for their beloved land,

Alhalkere. They encompassed the ceremonies, songs, dances, stories and essence of their land.

Perhaps this was why they were so good!

From a gallery perspective, this new work was very exciting, so we decided to keep it completely under wraps and not show any, or even reveal the existence of this new body of work until we exhibited it.

So for the next months we began to build a collection of paintings and works on paper, the best of which formed the exhibition, A New Direction later in the year. As Kngwarreyes health improved, bigger works were possible but all were done in a long panel format that suited Kngwarreyes capacity.

From the first six pieces came groups of works. Some stayed together as sets and others went their separate ways. Kngwarreye didnt always define exactly how things should fit together, but some groups were just so coherent they had to stay united.

To coincide with the exhibition we placed an advertisement in Art and Australia and once the edition was out, the effect was immediate. Shocked dealers began calling, some demanding an explanation for what we had done. we had killed the golden goose, what were we thinking!, this was not Kngwarreye! but it was.

Kngwarreye did not reveal this new work to others, she may have sensed what their reaction would be. Thus this body of work is quite rare in that it was created particularly by Kngwarreye, outside the pressure of the broader marketplace and without external demands.

The 1994 show opened to a really strong reaction, it was forceful demanding work that was appreciated by many and very testing of others, but Kngwarreye made an indelible impression with this new body of work and asserted herself as an artist of even greater depth and capacity.

In this exhibition we gather together a body of work that recaptures the spirit of New Directions, works that were included in her retrospectives that toured Australia and later Japan, three major paintings that traveled to the Venice Biennale in 1997 and a few works from private collections that have never been seen publicly before.

awelye 1994 is a tribute to Emily Kame Kngwarreye and perhaps the most defining body of work of her oeuvre.

Christopher Hodges

We thank those that have made their work available for this exhibition,

and thank Rudolf Talmacs for his perceptive essay written in 1994.