The vast majority of people over the years, who have had negligible or no exposure to Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s paintings, generally have little or no idea as to why they are held in such high esteem and admired by those who understand her work.
Recently, an acquaintance of mine from the “vast majority” that I mention above, selected from our website this image of an Emily painting. She said to me, “Tim, it is an atrocious looking painting. How on earth could anyone think that it is anything but?”
We all have our own views, ideas and likes regarding art. My explanation to her was that Emily was a very old, authentic and traditional aboriginal lady when she painted this. Her upbringing was all to do with the Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime – and she even had a hole in her nose from those very early days. This is an absolute rarity now!
She spoke next to no English and through interpreters and the few English words that she possessed, she said that her paintings were about everything. And “everything” was pretty much to do with creation and mythology. She was given paints and canvas and almost immediately showed the art world how a little old aboriginal lady could master modern abstract, representing what she saw through her eyes and thoughts. And thus allowing us, the viewers of her paintings, to see what we believed them to be. It was all about everything.
Personally I love this piece. I look into it (and probably because I knew Emily and have had over 30 years experience with her family and other Utopia people), I see it as quite a mystical painting. I think of her having lived under the stars in the Central Australia deserts all of her life and this is a representation of her perspective of the night skies. I see bright stars, more distant stars, stars behind clouds, reflected sunsets on the evening clouds, storm buildups – and I imagine thoughts and wonderings of all people when lying on the ground looking up into the night heavens.
Others might see something completely different and I’m sure that they do – and that in itself shows the genius of Emily Kngwarreye.