Bessie Purvis Petyarre
Bessie Purvis Petyarre comes from a family and region which has produced some of the most prolific Aboriginal artists. Bessie was born in the 1960’s and is from Alhalkere country in the Utopia Region, approximately 3 hours from Alice Springs in Central Australia.
I (Sabine Haider, Director Central Art) have had the great pleasure in working with Bessie and her relatives since 2007. Bessie’s mother is the renowned Utopian artist, Polly Ngale. Her Aunt’s Kathleen Ngale and Angelina Pwerle are also well known artists of whom Central Art also represents. In Aboriginal culture aunts are also referred to as other mothers and their relationships are just as valuable and important as a mother to her children. Bessie has been supported and taught her culture and the technique of Dreamtime depiction by her mother and aunts throughout her life.
Like many Utopian artists, Bessie, was introduced to modern mediums in the 1970’s as a young child. She has always been around artists and has learnt her skills from her mother. She began experimenting with Batik silk painting in her early twenties as this had become a popular source of income during that time.
Her Dreamings come from both her parents, learning the Antwelarr and Kame Dreamtime from her father and the Anwekety Dreaming from her mother. Her style is very similar to that of her mother and aunties, having been taught the Bush Plum story from her. The Bush Plum is a significant story for the region, it is a major food source collected by women. Generally fruit can only be harvested for several weeks a year, the women will often gather as much as possible, it is dried out and when wanted for use soaked in water before being consumed. This is still practiced today.
The Atnwelarr and Kame Dreamtime story is also a very important story for Bessie’s country. Atnwelarr refers to the plant and Kame the seed. It is the most common depiction in her artwork. Ceremonies are performed by Aboriginal people to ensure that productivity is continued and a crop will grow for the following year. The plant and seed are also a food source for Aboriginal people. The Dreamtime story talk of two seeds being born one that belongs to Alhalkere and Atnangkere country and the other Arnumarra country. The seeds created two different species of the pencil yam.
Bessie uses a topographical technique to demonstrate the growth patterns of the Bush Plum. She builds up layers of colour using fine dotting, smearing, and larger dots using multiple colours. Bessie is able to depict the Plum is a variety of different seasonal colour tones and this creates a shimmering, vibrant effect to her work.
Bessie continues to live in the Utopia region with her family, husband and children.
Her artwork is affordable using larger sized canvases to captivate her audience. I believe she is an emerging artist who shares an important story of her country and culture with art lovers. Bessie has the appropriate cultural knowledge to depict her Dreamtime stories and has the appropriate mentorship around her in her mother and aunts. I would recommend anyone whom this style of art appeals to, to consider Bessie’s work.
Important copyright notice
The Copyright of all images and documentation remains with Sabine Haider. The Australian Copyright Act protects all artists from unauthorised copying by giving control over original works of art to the artist by law. However depending on the use proposed, Sabine Haider from Central Art – Aboriginal Art Store can facilitate reproduction of works with the permission of the artist as we have developed close relationships over the years with many individual painters and craftspeople.
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