Josie Petrick Kemarre c.1953

Top 200 Australian Aboriginal Artists Special Feature

Josie Petrick Kemarre
Josie Petrick Kemarre, Bush Flowers, Aboriginal Art Directory Gallery

Country: Eastern Desert
Language: Anmatyerre
Community: Utopia, Soakage Bore
Works Offered/Sold at Auction: 52/28
Total Sales at Auction to 2008: AUD$92,451.00
Highest result at Auction to 2008: AUD$22,800.00
Rank amongst Living Artists: 55
Rank amongst all artists of the movement: 148

Josie Petrick Kemarre c.1953

Josie Petrick Kemarre was born at Santa Teresa Mission, c.1953. and by the time she had begun painting in 1990 she was living in the Eastern Desert region surrounding Utopia.

Based on the native plants of her homeland and her favorite bush tucker species at various stages of their growth, her paintings intimately associated with Women’s Awelye (ceremony/dancing) and Women’s Dreamings are rendered in two quite distinctively different styles. Her aerial depictions of bush tucker Dreamings featuring overlapping dot work entail only a semblance of Aboriginal iconography, while in her Women’s Dreaming’s each row of dots is rendered in a different colour with the inclusion of iconic womens symbols.

As her art has gained recognition Josie Petrick has become known for innovative works that create a sense of visual harmony through fine variegated fields of immaculately applied dotting.

Being an independent artist and having moved from Utopia to the Alice Springs camps during the 1990’s her painting career has followed an unusual trajectory. Despite limited recognition gained largely through retail and upmarket tourist outlets until well in to the current millennium she has became recognized for her often eye-catching, intricate and extremely affordable paintings. However, despite her obvious talent, no dealer other than Barry Dew of Alice Souvenirs in Todd Mall, and those galleries associated with Michael Hollow’s Desert Art Gallery supported her art practice on a regular basis prior to 2006 the year a spectacular work appeared in the National Gallery of Victoria Landmarks exhibition and catalogue. In part this image, atypical of her oeuvre to that point in time, gained impact due to the catalogue designer’s decision to bleed the image beyond the margins of the catalogue page. By juxtaposing it with a highly coloured work by the artist of the moment Tommy Watson, it made an immediate impact.

Within months dealers were searching for her ready to commission works of a similar nature for prices many times her previous earnings. Shortly thereafter, in June 2006, a spectacular commissioned work appeared in the second Shalom Gamarada Aboriginal Art Exhibition at the University of New South Wales and sold for $22,000.

While it is these late career works that are driving Petrick’s current prices it was a beautifully rendered 268 x 130 cm masterwork in her earlier iconographic style that set her auction record when sold at Lawson~Menzies in May 2007 for $22,800 against a presale estimate of $16,000-18,000 (Lot 235). It would seem that those who were lucky enough to purchase large works in her former style for as little as $1200-1600 between 2000 and 2005 will have done very well indeed however it remains to be seen whether her current prices are as sustainable.

In recent times Aranda Art in Melbourne has shown her paintings in a number of international art fairs and has played an important role in promoting this formerly vastly under rated artist.

Her works are in a number of important collections including the National Gallery of Victoria, the Holmes a Court collection and Artbank and she may well be capable of even better works given she has many years of painting ahead of her.

The painting illustrated above is a very attractive work in a style more typical of her 2000 - 2005 period. It depicts the landscape and the seasonal cycle of wild bush berry plant from an omnipotent view, with the barren desert landscape transformed after rain into abundant vegetation. At this time the women gather the edible bush berries, which are a principal source of nutrition for Aboriginal people living in Central Australia. The women’s celebration of this Dreaming ensures fertility, regrowth and abundance in the months to follow.

This review is by Adrian Newstead, a leading Aboriginal art consultant.

As part of this informative series, Adrian profiles a selection of Australia's 200 highest selling and most successful living and deceased Aboriginal artists. Each profile contains the artist's primary and secondary market results. They have been written to assist collectors in learning more about the artists behind the paintings, and the place of each artist in the history of the development of specific regional styles.

Adrian Newstead is the owner of Cooee Gallery in Bondi, Sydney. Statistics supplied by the AASD (Australian Art Sales Digest) which ranks artists according to performance indicators relating to secondary market sales.

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