Ada Bird Petyarre

About the Artist

Ada Bird Petyarre

Born: c. 1930            Deceased: June 2009 Language Group: Anmatyerre

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Ada was involved in the art movement of Utopia since its inception. She began with the Utopia Women’s Batik Group in the late 1970’s where her work was exhibited extensively and featured on the cover of the Utopia – A Picture Story publication by A. Brody (Heytesbury Holdings, Perth, 1990). In 1988 Ada subsequently began painting with acrylics during CAAMA’s Summer Project and continued in this medium until suffering a stroke in 2004.

Ada’s work is represented in many major and private collections all over the world. She is known for her bright, bold linear patterns often incorporating breasts, indicating women’s ceremonial body paint designs associated with the Arnkerrthe (Mountain Devil Lizard) Dreaming for Atnangkere and Ahalkere Country. This Dreaming story was the most significant for Ada along with her sisters, Kathleen, Gloria, Myrtle, Violet, Nancy and Jean Petyarre (also known as the Seven Petyarre Sisters).

Ada always painted like her personality: vibrant, outgoing and blatantly honest! She was a lover of bright colours, particularly blue, but also painted in more traditional and subdued colours. Fine detailed works are not traditional of her group nor were they any part of Ada's works. She is a traditional senior Aboriginal woman who involved and expressed herself to the fullest extent both on canvas and in her ancient culture, her most favoured works being the women’s ceremonial body paint designs (awelye) for the Mountain Devil Lizard (Arnkerrthe).

Ada had two daughters, June and Hilda and four sons, Paddy, Colin, Stephen and Ronnie, all are married and have children of their own. Ada had over 30 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren when she passed. When Ada was asked how many grandchildren she had, she replied whilst slowly shaking her head, “too many!”  Many of her large extended family have continued Ada’s tradition and are Utopia artists too.

Collections

Mbantua Gallery Permanent Collection, Alice Springs

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

The Holmes á Court Collection, Perth

The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica USA

University of Queensland, Anthropology Museum, St Lucia

Solo Exhibitions

1990 Utopia Art, Sydney

1999 Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs

1999 Ginninderra Galleries, Canberra

2000 Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs

2002 October, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs

Group Exhibitions

1977-87 Exhibited with the Utopia Women at Exhibitions in Australia and overseas

1988 Time Before Time, Austral Gallery, St Louis, USA

1988 Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Sydney

1989 Utopia Batik, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs 1990 Utopia –A Picture Story, an exhibition of 88 works on silk from the Holmes á Court Collection by Utopian Artists which toured Eire and Scotland

1991 Flash Pictures National Gallery of Australia

1991 The Eighth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

1992 Paintings from Utopia: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Ada Bird Petyarre and Gloria Petyarre, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, Victoria

1992-3 New Tracks Old Land, An Exhibition of Contemporary Prints from Aboriginal Australia, touring USA and Australia

1993 The Tenth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

1993-4 ARATJARA, Art of the First Australians, Touring: Kunstammlung, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, Hayward Gallery, London, Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark

1994 Power of the Land, Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria

1994 Yiribana, Art Gallery of New South Wales.

1998 Dreamings, Florence, Brussels

1998 Art Gallery Kunsthuys, The Netherlands

1998 Arte Centre, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands

1998 New World Art Gallery, Hattem, The Netherlands

1998 Hilton Hotel Art Gallery, Rotterdam, The Netherlands 1998 Museum Dorestad, Wijk bij Duurstede, The Netherlands

1998 ‘Culture Store’, Art Gallery, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

1999 June-August, Caring for Country – Artists of Utopia, Tandanya, S.A

1999 My Country, Powerful Expressions, Wollondilly Galerie, Germany

2000 Mar-April, Artists of Utopia, Tandanya, S.A

2000 Utopia women – Red Desert Gallery, Eumundi, Qld/Sunshine Coast University/Noosa Blue Resort, Noosa Qld

2001 February - Young Presidents Organization University, Westin Hotel, Pitt Street, Sydney

2001 February - Walkabout Indigenous Art Gallery, Leichardt, Sydney

2001 May-July, Painting Country, Tandanya, S.A

2001 June - De Beer’s Collection, Brookdale Galleries, QLD

2001 August - Seven Sisters Petyarre, Brisbane City Gallery, Brisbane

2002 August - Redback Art August exhibition

2002 Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: New City Merchants, Knoxville, TN; Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville, TN; 'The Cove Gallery' Portland, OR; Urban Wine Works, Portland, OR; Mary's Woods, Portland, OR June

2003 Seven Sisters, Chrissie Cotter Gallery, Sydney

2003 Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: New City Merchants, Knoxville, TN; Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville, TN; 'The Cove Gallery' Portland, OR; Mary's Woods, Portland, OR

2003 September - Mbantua Gallery - Contemporary Aboriginal Art Event, Umpqua Bank, Portland, OR, USA

2004 Mbantua Gallery USA exhibition; Portland, Nashville, Knoxville, Hartford and Greenwich

2004-2006 Evolution of Utopia, Mbantua Gallery Cultural Museum, Alice Springs

Further References

Brody, A. 1989 Utopia Women’s Paintings The First Works on Canvas, A Summer Project 1988-89, exhib.cat., Heytesbury Holdings, Perth.

Brody, A. 1990, Utopia: a Picture Story, 88 Silk Batiks from the Robert Holmes a Court Collection

Morphy Howard. Aboriginal Art, Publ Phaidon © 1998

Desart the Aboriginal art centers of Central Australia, Putting in the Colour Contemporary Aboriginal Textiles, Jukurrpa Books (IAD Press) ©2000

 
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