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Sacred grasses

Sacred grasses

WARNING: Relatives of the artist are advised that images of Emily Kame Kngwarreye and other Aboriginal people who might be deceased appear in this exhibition and website.


The action of the threshing and winnowing of the native grasses is sensed in the character of these lines.

Margo Neale, curator

Works referred to by Emily as 'sacred grasses' were mostly completed in 1996, the last year of her life.

Artwork, 'Untitled 1996'
Untitled 1996
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 152.3 x 91.7cm.
Laverty Collection, Sydney.
© Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Licensed Viscopy 08.

These paintings reveal a speed and energy that belie her advanced years. Sensed in these works is the action of grasses being winnowed by the wind to release the seeds that are ground to make seed cakes for ceremonies and everyday sustenance. Scribbly in character, the tangled massing of lines is scrawled over the surface, sometimes almost translucent and at other times thick and textural. These multicoloured marks evoke the spiky angularity of grasses that contrasts with the meandering tendrils of the yam series that preceded them. Their immediacy reveals an artist completely at ease with her materials, with a command of mark-making that demonstrates the assurance and confidence of one who has produced over 3000 works in only eight years.