The painting is titled Awelye and was done by Ada in 2003. Ada who resided in Utopia, ca 250 km north/east of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia visited her family in Alice Springs at the time when I visited her family of artists. Whilst there she did this painting for me which is now a rare item in our collection.
Ada Bird Petyarre (1930-2009)
Born around 1930 on Utopia Station at Atnangkere, Ada lived the last part of her life at Mulga Bore (borders Utopia). Her country was Atangkere and she is an Anmatyerre/Alyawarre speaker. Many of her paintings are based on women's body paint and incorporate notions of bush medicine, the bush bean, the Emu, Pencil Yams and grass seeds. However, she also shares with her six sisters the Thorny Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming.
During 1977, Ada participated in the batik program at Utopia and therefore was one of the originators of the 'Utopia School'. It has been shown that the batik makers moved on to painting with acrylic paint and canvas in 1988 and Ada was also deeply involved with this activity, her work being seen in the 'A Summer Project' show organised by CAAMA. This project saw the public beginning of Ada's painting career.
Two years later she had her first solo show, at Utiopa Art in Sydney, a remarkable achievement for a 'new' painter. Although Ada would tell you that she had been painting all her life. Then, by 1995, it was said of Ada that she was the second most important artist from Utopia (after Emily Kame Kngwarreye).
Ada's work was based solidly in symbols and the power and depth of meaning that they convey. This, of course, is the basis of desert art and Ada is rightly recognised as one of the founders. As is the case with a number of other older ladies of the desert her paintings demonstrate one of the last remaining links with women's ceremonial knowledge.
Like so many other painters from Utopia, Ada's works are now collected throughout the world and reside in many outstanding collections.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra;
Robert Holmes a Court Collection, Perth;
Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney;
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide;
Museum of Victoria, Melbourne;
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin;