Artist Biographies
Rougette Gallery
Rockland, Maine
Josie Kunoth Petyarre


Josie Kunoth Petyarre


"Women's Ceremonial Bodywork"

        This canvas was used in a women’s ceremony considered sacred and, therefore, the symbols in the work are not interpreted for outsiders.   Josie has inherited from her family, her tribe, and along gender lines the right to use certain symbols and even colors to create this art for this secret ceremony.  Body painting is one of the earliest forms of Indigenous art.  Bodies are painted for ceremonial reasons or for traditional dances.  The preparation can take many hours and is the role of certain artists within the group.  The designs drawn on the body are traditional designs with mythological meanings which are owned by the clan of the person who is being decorated.  The symbols can also be depicted on objects such as bark paintings and, in more recent history, canvas.  This work of art depicts the relationship between women and their natural landscape most probably describing the role of women as healers and providers within the society.
        On occasion, the group as a whole will allow ceremonial work to leave the tribe -- this is one such unusual work.

       Josie Kunoth Petyarre is an important Anmatyerre artist from the eastern desert region of Utopia who has been painting since the  emergence of one of Ausgtralia's most important paiting movement over 25 years ago. 
 She lives at a remote outstation Pungalindum on traditional Anmatyerre land surrounding Utopia (350 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs) with her husband, their five sons, four daughters, and grandchildren.  Josie began producing art in the early 1980s as part of the Utopia Women’s Batik Group, began painting in the late 1980’s, and since 2000 has begun sculpting.   She has emerged as a leading artist in the aboriginal community and her paintings and sculptures have been recognized in several prestigious art competitions in Australia.   Petyarre has been a finalist in more than 20 competitions and her work is held by the federal government's Artbank and other notable collections (The Australian, July 29, 2010).

                    In 2011 Petyarre's work was exhibited at the 20122 Korean International Art Fair  (please click  here  for  the review of her work  there by Henry Skerritt which appeared in Artist Profile Magazine, May 2011.)  2010 brought her the Waterhouse Natural History Prize at the South Australian Museum.  Petyarre won first prize for paintings and her husband Dinni Kunoth Kemarre won  first prize for sculpture.  Their work was exhibited at the  2010 Melbourne Art Fair.   In 2008 she was a finalist for the Stanthorpe Art Prize, a finalist for the Basil Sellers Art Prize (Ian Potter Museum), and a finalist for the Xstrata Coal Emerging Indigenous Art Award.  In 2007 she was a Blake Prize finalist and her painting toured the country with the traveling exhibition.  That year she also received a Highly Commended (2nd place) at the Willoughby Art Prize competition for her work Figure in Ceremonial Body Painting” , and she was also a finalist for the Woollahra Small Scultpure Prize, New South Wales.  Her work has also been exhibited at Art Sydney (2005), Art Melbourne (2006 & 2007), and in countless shows in Australia and Europe since the 1990’s.

        Josie’s art is part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of Australia (Canberra) and the Berndt Museum of Anthropology (Western Australia).

Josie Kunoth Petyarre
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