About The Artist
Kathleen Ngala was born in approximately 1930 and comes from the Utopia region in Central Australia. Her skin name has various spellings which include Ngale, Kngale, Kngala & Kngal. She is a senior custodian of cultural knowledge of her country. She also belongs to the oldest living generation of Utopian artists. Her younger sisters, Polly Ngale and Angelina Pwerle Ngale are also fellow accomplished artists. The three women can often be found together painting.
Over the last two decades Kathleen has been painting her Dreamings and whilst she has not had the recognition of traditional collectors she has become a popular artist of a new generation of art lovers. Kathleen began experimenting with modern art forms like many of the women from Utopia during the community project involving silk batiks in 1979. In the late 1980’s another community project was launched in Utopia whereby the women were introduced to canvas and acrylic paints. For many of the artists this allowed them to become even more creative and abstract with their artworks.
Kathleen, a custodian of the Arlparra country is responsible for the Anwekety Dreaming (Bush Plum). This is the primary feature of her paintings. Her paintings are made of up numerous layers of superimposed dots, creating a feeling of depth, light and movement. There is as much hidden in her paintings as there is visible in the surface. The under dotting shimmers through the top layers and her use of colours such as yellow, red, purple and green which is
often combined with white to create a subtle interplay. She will often apply a thick layer of over dotting which almost obscures the under dotting altogether. The colour is often thickly applied or washed out, but then in the surface of the same canvas the over dotting can in some parts become very sparse, allowing the viewer to see down through the painting’s surface into a field of deep or ‘negative’ space. These are some significant characteristics of Kathleen’s artworks.
The story of the Bush Plum told through Kathleen’s paintings reveals the geography of the bush plum as well as her knowledge of the significant places such as clay pans, soakages and spinifex mounds. Anwekety is a food source for Aboriginal people living in Utopia and in the Eastern Desert of Central Australia. The women will often pay homage to the spirit of the bush plum through body paint, song lines and dance cycles during ceremonies.
Central Art has been working with Kathleen since 2007 and I (Sabine Haider, Director, Central Art) have always enjoyed her visits to the gallery where she is almost always accompanied by her sisters. Kathleen does not speak a great deal of English however once you start talking about art and her story she seems to come alive and is very animated.
In recent years her paintings have become quite popular. In 2000 and 2008 she was a finalist in Australia’s most prestigious art prize, the, National Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. Her paintings have been featured in several exhibitions over the last decade as she becomes recognised and sought after.