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Cooee Art Auction | The Rod Menzies Estate


Indigenous and Oceanic Art Collection

Part I Wednesday 8th November 2023


Feature Lot

Emily Kame Kngwarreye - Earth's Creation II



LOT #29

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910 - 1996)

Earth's Creation II,1995

synthetic polymer paint on Belgian linen 318 x 251cm (9 panels of varying sizes)

EST: $400,000 – 600,000


Emily Kame Kngwarreye was born at Utopia station in a remote desert community almost 300 km north-west of Alice Springs. Before beginning her professional painting career in the late 1980’s, she worked at Utopia as a batik artist for around 10 years. Her career as a painter was as prolific as it was passionate, and after several years she had established herself both locally and internationally. She died in September 1996 leaving behind a remarkable story of inspiration, a profound and invaluable legacy to the art world. Emily went through many different individual styles during her short eight-year career as a professional painter. By the 1990’s early works with intimate tracking and animal prints interspersed with fine dotted colour fields, gave way to running dotted lines over cloud-like ethereal landscapes, and parallel horizontal and vertical stripes, representing ceremonial body painting, in a wide array of colours. Within a year she began using larger brushes than previously and by 1993 she began creating floral images in a profusion of colour by double dipping brushes into layers of paint resulting in variegated petals in hepatic profusion. Her formal body painting line images yielded to the serendipity of scrambling yam roots and, in the final months of her life, to colour fields painted with large flat brushes that are simply brilliant in their assuredness and utter simplicity. While her preoccupation was the life cycle of the Yam in all of its seasonal manifestations and the women’s ceremonies that celebrated its importance and their responsibility as its custodians, Emily painted many interrelated themes and species.

In her own words, she painted: ‘Whole lot, that’s all, whole lot, awelye, arlatyeye, ankerrthe, ntange, dingo, ankerre, intekwe, anthwerle and kame. That’s what I paint: whole lot. My Dreaming, pencil yam, mountain devil lizard, grass seed, dingo, emu, small plant emu food, green bean and yam seed.’


In 1995, Fred Torres (Aboriginal art dealer and son of Emily’s niece, Barbara Weir) initiated a workshop on the Utopia clan lands in which Emily created the masterpieces, Earth’s Creation I and Earth’s Creation II. The workshop was held during a period in which Emily was creating wildly colourful canvases by double-dipping brushes into pots of layered paint. Despite her age, Emily’s physicality was evident as she painted. Often with a brush in each hand she simultaneously pounded them down on to the canvas spreading the bristles and leaving the coagulating paint around the neck of the brush to create depth and form. In preparation for this workshop Torres and Weir prepared large canvases by hand-sewing individual panels together in such a way that Emily could paint a single painting that could later be unpicked and stretched onto several interlocking and adjoining frames. Of these, Earth’s Creation I, the major triptych measuring 632 x 275 cm, was included in her touring retrospective exhibition curated by Margo Neale for the Queensland Art Gallery in 1998. The painting was offered for sale in 2017 and sold for $1.056 million. On the request of the National Museum of Australia, Earth’s Creation I was subsequently loaned to tour in Tokyo and Osaka in Japan in 2007, and exhibited at the National Museum in Canberra in 2008. It was exhibited in the Great Hall of Parliament House in Darwin before heading to its new home in Alice Springs. In 2015 the work was exhibited in the Giardini Central Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale,“All the World’s Futures”, curated by Okwui Enwezor. Earth’s Creation I, was subsequently sold at auction in 2017 through Cooee Art for $2.1 million, breaking the record it had set in 2015 for the highest sale price achieved by an Australian female artist. Earth's Creation II, the work on offer here, was painted in the same workshop. The palette is cooler and the overall impression more subdued, yet it lacks none of the spiritual intensity and vision of her larger work. The reduced palette of predominately blue and white, with touches of red, gives the impression of floodwater after rain. From every part of the work, its sublime orchestration engages the eye with dazzling energy and flowing movement. The painting is a luminous celebration with a mystical, ethereal presence. It’s about her life, her story, her country. It’s about her universe and the mythologies that inform the Dreamings. Filled with mystery, it pays reverence to the sacredness of the Earth, the seasons, vegetation, people, the epic adventures of her spiritual ancestors, and ceremonies that she daily engages with in her life. Together, Earth’s Creation I and Earth’s Creation II can be seen as companion pieces. Both works exhibit an assurance in execution that was based upon Kngwarreye’s inseparable link to her country and its ceremonies.

Provenance Dacou Gallery, SA Cat No. SS1197158 (A - I) Private Collection, SA Lawson-Menzies, Sydney, NSW, November 2007, Lot No. 60 Menzies Estate Collection, Vic Comprising 9 panels - each panel inscribed verso: SS1197158 (A - I) indicating that this was created during the same special bush workshop during which 'Earth's Creation I' was painted. Accompanied by a copy of a certificate of authenticity from Dacou and 9 images of the artist creating the artwork.


Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Sydney Opening Gala

Thursday, November 2nd | 6 - 8pm

Cooee Art, 17 Thurlow St, Redfern

Viewing November 3rd - 8th | 10 - 6pm

Auction Night

Wednesday, November 8th | 7pm AEDT


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