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Explore Gloria

July 10, 2020 3 min read

Gloria Petyarre sitting on concrete porch painting a large blue and green canvas.

Sitting at the foot of a large canvas laid out on the concrete porch of her granddaughter's house, Gloria sits cross legged ready to paint.

There is a whole support team around her ready to get her what she needs. And they're standing by to make sure the looming dust storm doesn’t interfere.

Gloria wants to be outside though, not confined to the indoors.

Birds eye view of Gloria Petyarre sitting on porch painting a large orange leaves painting

The small brick house attached to the porch has been Gloria's residence for some time. It’s nestled in an outer suburb of Alice Springs some 250km from her homelands.

Living in a centralised area suits Gloria.

Gloria grew up in Central Australia's remote Utopia region but moved away decades ago. Bright city lights and dazzling new experiences appealed to her. But most of all she sought freedom to explore and make her own choices independent of the community. She loves telling stories of her travels to far off cities and countries for her art. 

For years she encountered significant pressure to return to Utopia but she remained true to her spirit. 

Gloria paints with these same convictions. With confidence, freedom and is willing to go where no one else has gone before. It is the kind of leadership the Utopia art movement was built on.

Classic style Leaves painting by Gloria Petyarre. Painted with small swift brush strokes in yellow ochre and white.

Gloria recalls painting a football for the Sydney Swans, having a Hermes scarf designed with her artwork, and painting with (new) toilet brushes to explore her art. Not to mention, she was also the first Indigenous Australian artist to win the Wynne Prize, a major art prize for the best Australian landscape at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Old newspaper article image of Gloria Petyarre and Emily Kame Kngwarreye laughing. Captioned "What had begun as a song ended as a scream".
Pictured above with Emily Kame Kngwarreye in the 1990's.

Gloria also paints from the heart, and can always be found singing while she paints.

She’s singing about family. About her brothers and sisters, mum and dad.” Esther, Gloria's granddaughter, says. 

Large bright coloured Leaves painting in Gloria's later 'big leaf' style. Measuring 180cm x 120cm.

Born in 1945 to a respected elder of Atnangkere country, Gloria has seven sisters and comes from a big family. She also lives with two great grand children, and a great great grandchild.

Other times, Gloria will sing about country, or about the Arnkerrthe, a small thorny but gentle lizard who created the Dreamtime for her people. Or about awelye (women's ceremony).

Sometimes she'll even start talking in song.


Gloria is a special 2020 exhibition showcasingfifteen beautiful and quintessential Leaves paintings by this Australian icon.

10 July - 20 Sept 2020

View exhibition »



Gloria's quintessential paintings, the pieces she is most revered for and also proud of, are her Leaves paintings.

Back when Gloria first started painting Leaves in the mid 90’s, it was different to anything else anyone was painting.

Though quite by mistake, it was a new approach to painting and it became a turning point for Aboriginal art.

Gloria Petyarre sits in the centre of a giant 18'x12' canvas with one layer of small leaves complete.

Gloria's classic Leaves paintings are those made with a small brush. Leaves are meticulously crafted with small, swift brush strokes, usually in singular or distinct layers.

An 'big leaf' painting by Gloria Petyarre in warm earthy yellows and a layer of white leaves over the top.

For the past 10-20 years, Gloria has largely painted a big bold leaf in a study of colour layered upon layer.

Medicinal properties

Gloria is known to have attributed many of herpaintings to leaves with medicinal properties.

It was her mother who taught her how to make a medicinal ointment from these leaves. 

"Mum was taking the kangaroo fat, and echidna [fat]. We been mixing 'em up".

Gloria's mum would take fat from kangaroos and echidnas and mix it with crushed medicinal leaves.

The ointment was applied to their face and their hair so that its powerful aroma would linger and aid in the relief of colds. 

View paintings by Gloria Petyarre »

Explore Gloria. An exhibition of works by Australian icon Gloria Petyarre.

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