ARTIST: Gloria Tamerre Petyarre c.1942 –
TITLE: Mountain Devil Lizard
LANGUAGE/REGION: Anmatyerre/Utopia, Alice Springs – NT
YEAR: 2011
DIMENSIONS: 190.0cm x 129.0cm
MEDIUM: synthetic polymer paints on Belgian linen

DREAMINGS: Bush Leaf Medicine, Emu Dreaming, Mountain Devil Lizard, Women’s Body Paint

Gloria Petyarre was born around 1945 in Atnangker Soakage, Northern Territory. She is the niece of the late and famous Emily Kame Kngwarreye (c.1910-1996). Gloria’s family lineage is full of emerging, established and collectible Aboriginal artists. Gloria has been creating contemporary Indigenous art for over 40 years and her simplistic lines and style has found favour with collectors and art lovers all over the world. Beginning her art career in 1977 as part of the women’s Batik Program, she emerged as one of the artists in the 1980’s to permanently paint  acrylic on canvas. In 1990, Gloria’s art painted on silk batik titled ‘Emu Dreaming’ was featured as one of the 88 silk batiks in the Robert Holmes á Court Collection and featured in their book “Utopia – A Picture Story”. Since then, Gloria has become a significant artist within the Utopia region and her work has found its own style through the years collaborating abstract, movement and simplicity in her canvasses.

Gloria remains to be one of the most sought after Indigenous artists of our time and is a great representation of an ongoing successful Utopia artist. Gloria currently resides with her children and grandchildren between Alice Springs and Utopia in the Northern Territory, Australia.

The Mountain Devil Lizard

The Mountain Devil Lizard, also known as Thorny Devil or Thorny Dragon and its latin name which is Moloch horridus. The mountain devil lizard only grows to a maximum of about 20 centimetres and disguises itself with a look that is harsh, spiky and threatening but when touched the mountain devil lizards skin is soft and harmless. The scary exterior is natures’ way of repelling potential predators away from this nontoxic creature. The mountain devil lizard has the ability to change its skin colour to camouflage against the shades of the desert sands, land and bushes in hues of browns, tans and olive. This enhances the reptiles’ chances of survival in the harsh desert conditions. It eats very small ants and is very shy and timid. The mountain devil lizard moves slowly with a jerky motion leaving a distinguishing pattern of hemispherical tracks.

‘Mountain Devil Lizard’ Dreaming – Arnkerrth (The Old Woman Mountain Devil) Dreaming

Gloria along with her sisters and brothers has custodial rights to the Arnkerrth (The Old Woman Mountain Devil) Dreaming. This Dreaming explains the important landforms and seasonal availability of food and water on Atnangker, Gloria’s birthplace. The story is about an Old Woman Arnkerrth who danced alone and the younger generations leaves her all alone in the desert by herself, dancing on her own. When she saw that both the young males and young females of the group had abandoned her against her wishes, she was very irritated. She was irritated not because she was left alone; she was irritated because she was the only one who had the greatest knowledge of the land and its terrain. She was the one that could lead them to food and water. The survival of all depended on her, the Old Woman Arnkerrth but the young ones did not understand this. Old Woman Arnkerrth was determined to find them and explain to them that survival in the desert is determined by the reliability of all members of the group.

Until today, there is a continuing need for formal ceremonies where dependability is ingrained into the young males and females of the group. This is to teach each of them the magnitude of being reliable and dependable at all times for the group, that each person in the group is equally as important for survival. In ceremonies, the Arnkerrth is celebrated in their Awelye (Women’s Body Paint). Paint is applied strategically on the women’s bodies and the story of Old Woman Arnkerrth is re-enacted. This enables the past, the present and the future to have a deep connection with the Dreaming, the Atnangker country and of course their ancestor Arnkerrth.

Each Petyarre sister has their own interpretation of the Mountain Devil Lizard. Gloria’s expressive interpretation of the Mountain Devil Lizard is about the lizards’ physical appearance. Gloria gets her inspiration from the erratic design on the Mountain Devil Lizard’s body and also the imaginative portrayal of the reptiles’ skin being shed. The skin sheds in curls and the desert has multiple circular shapes strewn through the sand when it is shedding season. Gloria paints this Dreaming with circular strokes using a flexible brush evoking movement and energy. Mostly, this Dreaming is represented by layering three complementing colours emulating the design as it would be found on the reptile in nature or its skin found on the desert sands.

Read more about Indigenous Culture and Community


© Dreamtime Art 2018

 Please Note: This biography and Intellectual Property including Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property belongs to Dreamtime Art, the artists/their estates and is subject to copyright. To protect these copyrights, no reproduction of any or all parts is allowed unless there is prior written permission and approval by Dreamtime Art.