Primitive Artistic Genius Shines –

kngwarreye anooralya250 Primitive Artistic Genius Shines   artmarketblog.comHow many artists do you know that only began painting seriously at aged 79 and had become an internationally exhibited, world renowned artist by age 81. My guess is not very many. One artist who did manage to achieve this extraordinary feat is the Australian Aboriginal artist Emily Kngwarreye whose work has recently gone on show in the exhibition Utopia: the Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye at the National Museum of Art in Osaka, Japan and will then move to the National Art Centre in Tokyo, Japan on the 28th of May.

You are probably wondering what is so special about Emily’s work that it should receive such recognition and acclaim in such a short period of time, well, where do I start. Up until the destructive invasion of the modern western world, Emily had lived the life of a traditional Aboriginal much like her people had lived for thousands and thousands of years. As a full blood senior Australian Aboriginal woman, Emily had been brought up with the influences of an ancient culture that revolves around notions of spirituality, family, history and an extremely close connection with the land. Without the tools of modern communication the Aboriginal people used the most primitive of methods to record and express the laws, beliefs and history of their people such as stories, dances, songs and various forms of visual artistic practices. These influences gave Emily a highly developed and extremely intuitive understanding and appreciation for the representation and expression of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, experiences and ideas in many different forms, including visually.

According to an article from the catalogue of the exhibition Utopia: Ancient Cultures/New Forms that included works by Emily “The paintings are not the daubings of an ‘untutored’ artist acting purely on intuition; the term has been applied often in the press to hype up the phenomenon which is Kngwarreye. Intuitive no doubt these works are; but it is an intuition founded on decades of making art for private purposes, of drawing in the soft earth, of painting on people’s bodies in ritual or, in the late 1970s, of painting on the bodies of the Utopia women as they successfully presented their claims to their land in legal proceedings”

The auction record for a work by Emily was set in 2007 for her work “Earth’s Creation” which fetched the phenomenal amount of AUD$1,056,000. Demand for Emily’s work continues to grow as recognition for her rare talent and unique approach becomes more wide spread. In a market full of superficiality and sterility it is no wonder that people are beginning to show greater interest in those artist’s that produce work that is more raw and primitive.

With very little outside influences and no formal training, the work that Emily produced was as pure and as unmediated as anyone could ever hope to find yet her work is still able to challenge, excite and engage the viewer as much, if not more, than any artist practicing today. In a nutshell, Emily’s work represents the origins of artistic practice and the purest form of artistic expression that cannot be taught and cannot be truly understood or explained. There is no doubt that Emily’s work is that of an artist who possesses true artistic genius in its most unadulterated form. The short but extremely influential artistic career of Emily Kngwarreye came to an end in 1996 when at aged 86 Emily passed away leaving behind a legacy that will continue to live on for many years to come. Enough said…

You can check out more of Emily’s work being exhibited in Japan here

 Primitive Artistic Genius Shines**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

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