Born: UTOPIA, NORTHERN TERRITORY
Born around 1928 in Utopia in the Northern Territory of Australia, Kudditji Kngwarreye is the younger half-brother of the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Kudditji had a traditional bush upbringing in the Utopia region before starting a long career as a stockman and mine worker.
An Anmatyerre Elder
As 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, and some commentators have seen a strong similarity with his sister Emily’s work – but it is not clear who was the first to set out on this path.
From Detailed to Rich Saturated Abstract Style – Impressionism and Abstract Expressionism in New Form
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 now seen his reputation grow nationally and internationally.
Kudditji is represented in major international collections. His two dimensional spatial constructions seem to refer to Rothko and modernists of the twentieth century. The paintings are documents of an intuitive interplay between artist and the space of a canvas.
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 the 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.
Perhaps most astounding of all, Kudditji’s works capture light in a unique way – this may have led to his work being compared with that of the French Impressionists. In certain of his paintings, the brushwork is such that colours change significantly with the light. The work in fact, changes throughout the day and by night under different lighting conditions.
Living Work That Changes Through The Day
A subtle change in the light outside will cause different colours to light up while others recede. Specks of brilliant orange, violet, blue, yellow, all seem to take their turns to dance in front of the canvas as conditions change. Put together, these aspects of Kudditji’s work make him indeed a masterly painter. His compositions and their meaning, his painterliness and most of all, his extraordinary use of colour, make him an artist to revere. Getting to know one of his works is indeed a journey, as each day it yields up greater depth, meaning, and nuance of astonishing colour.
Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney 2009, Sydney 2008, Sydney 2005
Waterhole Aboriginal Art, Danks Street, Sydney 2005
Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne 2005:
Art Mob, Hobart, Tasmania 2004
Sofitel Wentworth Exhibition, Sydney 2004
Japingka Gallery Perth 2003
Araluen Centre, Alice Springs 1990
Art Dock, Contemporary Art from Australia, Noumea, New Caledonia Collections: Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne Araluen Art Center, Alice Springs