Born around 1928, Kudditji Kngwarreye, the younger brother of the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye, had a traditional bush upbringing in the Utopia region before starting a long career as a stockman and mine worker. An Anmatyerre elder and custodian of many important Dreamings, Kudditji was inspired by the work coming out of Papunya to paint his own Dreamings, telling of the travels and law of the Emu ancestors.
Starting in 1986, his precisely dotted Emu Dreaming paintings, featuring ranks of coloured roundels and other 'hieroglyphs' on a chequered or dotted background, became sought after by major galleries in the Northern Territory. Breaking out of this style after some years, Kudditji's work became far looser and more 'abstract'. The demand for his earlier, detailed style, however, moved Kudditji to return to it, and it was only in 2003 that he began to exhibit the extraordinary, saturated colour paintings that have seen his reputation grow nationally and internationally.
The new paintings, in fact, have several styles, and Kudditji has explored size of canvas as well as form in these intense, beautiful works. A sense of immense space can be felt in the "My Country" paintings, where massive blocks of stippled colour are laid alongside each other, sometimes using only two colours, while in other paintings a quilt of juxtaposed colours produces a landscape effect.
Kudditji Kngwarreye's works, powerful, bold and striking represent the final stage in Kudditji’s evolution as an artist. His works have progressed from the restrained, meticulously executed Emu Dreaming stories to stunning bold abstracts using bold sweeping brush strokes and striking combination of colours. The works capture the very essence of Kudditji’s country Utopia, Central Australia.
Like his famous older sister, Kudditji is a custodian of this country. Although both Emily and her brother developed a more abstract style in the later years, they both remained faithful to their designated Dreaming stories.
Kudditji knows this country well. He has travelled across it on foot, as a stockman and as a miner. His works capture the very essence of his traditional country – varying from patchwork of brilliant irregular squares representing various tracts of land to sweeping horizons that reflect the wide flat horizons of the weathered desert landscape.
The most recent My Country works of Kudditji Kngwarreye have captured international attention where perhaps abstract indigenous art is more readily accepted. Most recently he was represented at the Arken Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen to huge success.
Although a frail man now approaching his eightieth year, Kudditji continues to paint his country in a passionate and compelling way the colours of his country.
• 2006 Arken Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen
• 2005 Art Mob Hobart Tasmania, Big Country Gallery, Gondwana, Alice Springs, Canberra Grammar School, Canberra
• 2004 Japingka Gallery, Perth, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne, Two Senior Men, Art Mob Gallery, Tasmania, Australian Exhibition Centre, Chicago, Spirit of Colour depot Gallery, Sydney, Waterhole Aboriginal Art, Sofitel Wentworth, Sydney
• 2003 Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
• 2000 Mia Mia Aboriginal Gallery, Melbourne
• 1999 Chapel off Chapel Gallery, Melbourne
• 1992 “Tjukurrpa”, Museum fur Volkerkunde, Basel, Switzerland
• 1991 Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
Kreczmanski, Janusz B & Birnberg, Margo (eds.): Aboriginal Artists: Dictionary of Biographies: Central Desert, Western Desert & Kimberley Region (JB Publishing Australia, Marleston, 2004)
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