Past Exhibition

Boss Woman Exhibition  |  1 Sept - 29 Oct 2017


Boss Woman brings together a new collection of works by Utopia elder Lena Pwerle, whose works are described as ‘unashamedly modern’, in this pulsating exhibition of movement, eloquence and a deep cultural rhythm.

Born in 1934, Lena grew up at Utopia Homestead, some 240 km north east of Alice Springs with her siblings and later lived in various outstations in Utopia bringing up a family of her own; having natural bush births for all seven of her children. 

Boss Woman

Lena is what is called a senior boss woman at Utopia and has for the past few decades actively participated on a number of government boards including the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (which protects Aboriginal sacred sites within the NT) and the Urapuntja council which governs Utopia. Though she is now well into her 80's, Lena remains a respected elder and authority on those issues concerning her people and their cultural legacy.

Lena's wisdom and seniority carries over to all parts of her life and she can be found teaching and encouraging other Ahalpere women to learn, participate and pass on their culture.

Lena (right) with fellow artist Gloria Petyarre (left)

Soakage paintings

The first series of Soakage paintings by Lena, as we know them today, evolved rather precipitously from her earlier Soakage dot paintings. These rare pieces consisted of a few small concentric circles made with dots, which rippled out into larger and larger bands of dots. Each band was painted using a different ochre colour belonging to her country - red ochre, yellow ochre and white. 

As boss woman, it was uniquely important to Lena when she began to have sell out exhibitions with her new paintings, because she was contributing significantly to the stream of income that other women had been bringing in to the community through art making for over a decade before. 

The reason for the change? Lena had bad cataracts and was finding it difficult to apply the fine detail needed with dot work. 


The inspiration for the circular motifs found in Lena's paintings are soakages (waterholes), called kwaty ngenty in Lena's native language. They can be difficult to find in the harsh desert environment, but they are spread across, and beneath, the land.

With many soakages now dried up, and modern interests vying for the attention of younger generations, losing this knowledge is a great threat to Lena's people and painting this story passes on Lena's knowledge and expertise on how and where to find them.

Boss Woman Exhibition

In this exhibition, a mix of earthy undertones, watery hues and vibrant colours dominate the collection. Soakages overlap on one another as if they do beneath the ground, creating unexpected mixes of colours, shades and movement that emblazon Lena's artwork with a compelling sophistication and rhythmic serenity. 


Exhibition artworks

Exhibition artworks are no longer available. Please visit Lena Pwerle to view all current Lena Pwerle paintings.


Boss Woman Exhibition - A Collection of artworks by Aboriginal artist Lena Pwerle

No products found in this collection