Exploring Alvira Bird’s dot paintings

by Utopia Lane Art May 04, 2018

Alvira Bird has been working on a series of dot paintings in different sizes which are finally complete and now online.

Her works are heavily influenced by the symbolism and characteristics of three Dreamings that belong to her country. These are Alpar Seed Story, Akatyerre (desert tomatoes) and Ahakeye (bush plum).

Both dot and linear work in these pieces are painted using ink bottles filled with acrylic paint, carried out in minute detail.

To create the larger dots, Alvira cuts off the ends of paint brushes so there is a larger flat surface. The small dots on top of the large dots lends an interesting dynamic; a technique that has become widely used by artists of her community in southern Utopia. 

 Alvira Bird Mpetyane dot painting, 45cm x 45cm

Alvira paints in a near monochramatic scale, with the exception of yellow ochre. The canvas is first painted grey to give the painting a neutral background as black is a significant colour to her people.

Alvira tells us that white dots are used to represent the dry seeds of alpar, which are actually a very tiny black seed.

The colour black has its place for a different story; representing the small bush plums called ahakeye. 

Yellow ochre is used to depict the presence of the mulga seed called ntang artety. Ntang is the Anmatyerre word for seed. 

 Alvira Bird Mpetyane dot painting

The word 'Awelye' means women's ceremony, including song, dance and the body paint designs.

Alvira's paintings have a strong ceremonial element. Not only are women symbolically depicted (U shapes) but their ceremonial body paint designs are infused into the designs.

Arc linear motifs are common in ceremonial body paint designs, and you can see these being echoed in the corners of Alvira's paintings. Concentric circles are painted around women's naval areas and again these can be seen replicated in Alvira's paintings in various ways.

 Alvira Bird Mpetyane dot painting

Alvira was taught by the senior women of Ilkawerne country the stories, songs and dances associated with Dreamtime and ceremonies.

Her grandmother was Ada Bird Petyarre of neighbouring Atnangkere country; a very well known artist during the 1990's. Her blood lines also trace back to the great Emily Kame Kngwarreye of Alhalkere country who has set numerous Australian art records and found ranking at the top of the Australian Indigenous Art Market.

Utopia Lane Art
Utopia Lane Art

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