Kudditji Kngwarreye (1930–2017)
Kudditji (pronounced Goo-beh-chee) Kngwarreye is known as one of Australia’s most prominent Artists. He was the brother of his famous older sister, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, whose work broke the Aboriginal art auction record in November 2017, with the sale of her work ‘Earth’s Creation’ for $2.1 million.
Kudditji, who was born in 1930 at Utopia Station, about 230 kms north east of Alice Springs, was an Anmatyerre elder and the custodian of many important Dreamings. He was a custodian for ceremonial sites located in his country at Utopia Station, and many of his paintings refer to sites at Boundary Bore, where men’s initiation ceremonies are performed.
Kudditji had a traditional bush upbringing and worked numerous jobs throughout the Central Desert, travelling widely and working as a stockman, and at other times working in mineral and gold mines. During his younger days, Kudditji frequently took the young boys/men hunting emu in these lands, merging tradition with practice as part of their initiation as men. It is the land of this experience that Kudditji paints in his ‘Emu Dreamings’ and ‘My Country’ works.
Kudditji began painting in the early 1980s, and through experimentation, he moved away from ‘dot art’ to create a bold, expressive style. Major galleries were not receptive to Kudditji or his ground-breaking style, and he was encouraged to paint in a more traditional manner.
It was not until 2002 that Kudditji revisited the bold approach after seeing Emily catapulted onto the Australian and international art scene. Kudditji resumed his exploration of abstract painting with strength and expression until he ‘put down the brush’ in 2015.
The newer works have gained much acclaim throughout Australia and around the world, and he participated in many national and international exhibitions. Kudditji’s late works are mainly Emu Dreaming, one of his inherited ancestral totems, My Country and Men’s Ceremonial Dreamings from Boundary Bore. His abstract imagery, bold colour, and intuitive interplay with space and form, has ensured his name and his monumental works of art, will never be forgotten.
Kudditji passed away in January 2017.