Gloria Tamerre Petyarre was born in 1942. For many years she lived and worked at Adelaide Bore, to the west of Utopia Station on the Ti Tree Aboriginal Lease in Central Australia and later in life she emerged as Australia’s most travelled and exhibited living indigenous painter with a solid international reputation as one of the great Aboriginal artists.
During the late 1970s she was a founding member of the Utopia Women’s batik Group. Her Aunty, the famous Emily Kame Kngwarreye, was there from the beginning and together niece and aunty played a most influential role as the art of Utopia began to form.
Gloria painted her first canvas for CAAMA’s “Summer Project” exhibition in 1988-9 and hence was amongst the very first painters in the ‘new way’ at Utopia. The following year she travelled to Ireland, London and India as a representative of the Utopia women, accompanying the “Utopia: A Picture Story” exhibition. Then, in 1991, she had her first solo show at ‘Utopia Arts’, Sydney, under the guidance of Christopher Hodges.
There is little doubt that Gloria benefitted greatly from the close association with Emily Kame and the other Aboriginal painters as they emerged as a group at Utopia. She, like the others, continually drew on her past experiences of life in their country with its attendant ritual and ceremonies. Her subjects were always close at hand … part of her very being. Furthermore, she was always a ‘natural’ painter with an assured technique.
Seeing her paint, brush in hand, brings the realization that she is highly accomplished. One may be lucky enough to hear Gloria gently sing her way through the many verses that comprise the song of the ‘Medicine Leaf’. The singing takes the form of short, rhythmic verses, which can produce, in her, a trance-like state. Traditionally this was a lead in to ceremonial performance and dance. All of this was accompanied by body painting.
She will tell you that each of her ‘dreaming’s’ carries with it a traditional, ancient song. Her singing combined with the gentle flow of paint from her brush promotes the idea that this is, in truth, a ‘performance’ that is substituting for an ancient ceremony. When the ‘performance’ is complete the resulting object, the painting, is incidental.