Acrylic on Linen 125 x 270 cm, painted 2004
Minnie Pwerle painted this Artwork in 2005 for her daughter Barbara Weir. Boomerang Art bought this painting from Barbara in March 2006.
Minnie Pwerle was born in c.1910/1920 and passed away in 2006. She commenced painting in her late eighties and almost instantly became a success story. Just five years into her career as an Aboriginal artist she was listed as one of Australia’s Top 50 “Most Collectable Artists” in the Australian Art Collector. During her brief career her paintings were steadily growing in popularity and demand for her art is as strong as ever.
First I met Minnie in the late nineties when she did her first paintings in her grandson’s workshop in Adelaide. I watched her for some time and her relatives, including her daughter Barbara Weir encouraged her to paint. Very quickly this unique older lady became famous and one could see her paintings hanging in almost every gallery in Australia snapped up in a matter of days by keen gallery owners and collectors. I stayed away from this race till the middle of 2005 when I made an offer to Barbara Weir (her daughter) to purchase her mothers paintings. I didn’t want to take part in the race for Minnie’s paintings but eventually the love for her art convinced me to give it a go and to make an offer. Most of the paintings I bought whilst Minnie was still alive and the ones I could buy from her daughter or grandchildren have been kept in my collection till now.
EMILY KAME KNGWARREYE AND MINNIE PWERLE
When Emily Kame Kngwarreye passed away in early September 1996, the world lost one of its outstanding painters. A subsequent exhibition in Tokyo in mid-2008 established that there was international recognition of her genius.
Quite apart from her cultural significance Emily was a market leader with her paintings growing steadily in popularity from 1989 onwards. During her brief painting career she rocketed to the top of Australian auction markets and in 2007, eleven years after her death, her 1995 painting Earth’s Creation set a record for an Aboriginal work at $1,300,000 Australian dollars.
Her departure left an obvious gap in the upper echelons of Australian indigenous paintings. There was nobody, it seemed, who would step up to the illustrious heights reached by Emily. There was nobody, it seemed, who could capture the imagination of the art world and take Emily’s place. There was a vacancy at the top.
It is not our claim that Minnie Pwerle entirely filled that gap, and we do not compare her with Emily. They were after all, two very different individuals who shared a remarkably coincidental set of circumstances. But it was Minnie who became the next ‘big name’ female painter to emerge.
Both were from Utopia, both were elderly when they began to paint with non-traditional materials and both commanded a great deal of respect from everybody with whom they came in contact. Both received the highest accolades from their peers and from Australia’s art public. Both worked through very short careers as painters on canvas producing works for the art market. Both emerged through the decades which saw indigenous art in this country reach dizzy heights.
MINNIE Pwerle's ART
Stylistically there were similarities between Emily's and Minnie's paintings. Minnie, like Emily, had a wonderful and, at times, wild sense of colour. Their brush marks were free and sometimes dry as the acrylic paint was dragged with undiminished energy across the canvas. They parted company, however, when it came to subject matter. They were, after all, from different areas and, as was always the case, their respective paintings reflected their personal and clan connections with country. Minnie’s work centred on Aweyle-Atnwengerrp, that is, women’s ceremonial concerns from her home country.
Other dreaming’s Minnie painted included the bush tomato and the wild desert orange. The fruits of both plants are represented in Minnie’s canvasses by a circular shape.
Also common in her work is a pendulous shape painted with parallel lines. This shape represents the breast of a women which has been painted for the performance of women’s business. In her life as a tribal elder, Minnie had been appointed a ceremonial body painter. Minnie sought to preserve aspects of this important role when she came to do paintings on canvas.
MINNIE'S FAMILY AND LIFE
Minnie was one of six children, and had seven of her own. Until several years before her death, she had visited Alice Springs only once. In the final years, however, Minnie travelled widely within Australia. She never went overseas.
Minnie Pwerle's first exhibition was in 2000 at Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne and many others followed and her works can be found in numerous collections in Australia and overseas and no collection of Aboriginal Art is complete without a Minnie painting.
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