Born c.1910 at Alhalkere (Soakage Bore) Utopia Station, Emily is an Eastern Anmatyerre speaker and senior artist at Utopia. Her Country is Alhalkere and her Dreamings include Sand Goanna, Wild Orange, and Emu. Emily first saw white people as a young girl aged about nine. She worked in her younger days as a stockhand on pastoral properties in this area (see The Art of Utopia, M. Boulter) at a time when Aboriginal women on the stations were usually only employed as domestics – suggesting the forceful independence of her personality. Emily was the adopted daughter of Jacob Jones, a very important lawman in the Alyawarre community, and a leader in the women’s ceremonial business at Utopia.
From the time she painted her first canvas for A Summer Project 1988-9 , the work of Emily Kame Kngwarreye has received widespread acclaim and recognition. Emily found in acrylics and canvas a medium more suited to the bold immediacy of her style than the more laborious production processes of batik, in which she had been working for the preceding decade and exhibiting with the Utopia women in exhibitions in Australia and abroad since 1977. Her technique is highly individual with under-drawings covered by layers of dots. Her pleasure in working as an artist is reflected in her powerful colours and her energetic and expressive compositions. In 1990, Emily’s work was shown in two highly successful solo shows in Sydney, as well as the Art Gallery of NSW’s Abstraction show. Later that year she participated in the CAAMA/Utopia artists-in-residence program at the ICA, Perth. (Reference: Batty, P. & Sheridan, N., Utopia Artist in Residence Project [Holmes à Court Foundation, Perth, 1990]). Several more solo shows have followed: Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne (1990, 1991) and Utopia Art, Sydney (1991, 1992). Her work was rapidly acquired by major public and private collections in Australia and overseas and is keenly sought after by other buyers. In three years, she has been represented in 48 group exhibitions around Australia and the world, including Ireland – A Picture Story , Royal Hibernian Gallery, Dublin; Russia – Aboriginal Paintings from the Desert , Union Gallery, Moscow, 1991 and touring St Petersburg, Ukraine, Minsk Byelorussia, Riga Latvia; USA – Contemporary Aboriginal Art , Harvard University and touring USA and Australia; Japan –Aboriginal Art from Australia , National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 1992 andCrossroads Toward a New Reality , National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo etc.
She is the most lauded painter of the Utopia art movement to date, and one of the best known of the desert artists, painting with an undiminished energy which belies her years. In 1992 she was awarded an Australian Artists Creative Fellowship. In 1993 she exhibited in the Joan and Peter Clemenger Triennial Exhibition of Contemporary Australian Art at the National Gallery of Victoria and featured inAratjara – Art of the First Australians , touring Dusseldorf, London and other European Galleries.