inscribed (vertically) in black fibre-tipped pen on reverse c.r.: 959130 / Emily Kngwarreye / Commissioned by THE HOLT FAMILY/ OF DELMORE SPRINGS N.T. / 22/23/7/95 inscribed in black fibre-tipped pen on reverse l.r.: EM/EMILY
Areas of dense linear striations are balances by sparser sections of white on black. Vertical undulations complement horizontals. Sometimes a border is painted in, on other occasions the design is left borderless and extends beyond the picture plane.
Emily Kam Kngwarray was born in her father and grandfather’s Country, Alhalker, Northern Territory, where she grew up in a traditional family as the youngest of three children. In 1926 the borders of the Utopia pastoral lease were drawn across the lands of the Anmatyerr and Alyawarr peoples and thereafter Kngwarray worked on a number of pastoral stations. In 1977 she was introduced to batik as part of adult education classes on Utopia Station and in 1988‒89 painted her first work on canvas, sparking a meteoric rise to prominence.
Kngwarray’s Anwerlarr Anganenty signifies her principal Dreaming, the anwerlarr (pencil yam, Vigna lanceolata sp.), associated with her birthplace, Alhalker. This audacious monochrome work, painted continuously over two days in her penultimate year, recalls her batiks of 1977–88 in which fluid lines derived from women’s awely ceremonies prevail over dots. Thus the work of Kngwarray’s late career is deeply rooted in her beginnings as an artist and in making arlkeny (body markings) for awely ceremony.
The vast composition, accomplished in a single, continuous stroke, conceptualises the veins, sinews and contours of Alhalker, seen from a planar perspective. Embracing the monumental surface, Kngwarray’s holistic vision is sustained in all of the minute sections, through contrasting rhythms: angular, meandering long stretches, short jabs of tension, energetic rushes and volatile lines. The intuitive drawing signifies the subterranean roots of the long tuberous vegetable, the cracks that form in the ground when the pencil yam ripens and the striped body paintings worn by Anmatyerr women in awely ceremonies.
In conceptual works such as this late masterwork or her earliest colourist canvases of layered dots, Kngwarray initiated a revolution. Her art resisted interpretation as any kind of narrative, map-making, diagram or landscape: it was no longer notation but a form of visual music.