Gloria Petyarre is an Australian Aboriginal artist from the Anmatyerre community, just north of Alice Springs. She is a significant figure in contemporary Indigenous Australian art.
Gloria Petyarre won Australia's longest running art prize, the Wynne Prize in 1999 with Leaves, being the first Aboriginal person to win one of the Art Gallery of New South Wales's major prizes. She travelled to Ireland, England and India in 1990 as part of the Utopia – A picture story exhibition. She held her first solo exhibition in 1991. She is represented in major Australian galleries such as the National Gallery of Australia. She is the niece of Emily Kngwarreye and the younger sister of Kathleen Petyarre, two noted Aboriginal artists.
Gloria lived at the Utopia community after 1977, where she started batik painting, exhibiting in shows around Australia for ten years. She began work on the 'Summer Project' in 1989 which involved translating the batik paintings onto canvas. She was one of the founding members of this Utopia Women's Batik Group.
She paints several Dreamtime stories such as the Bush Medicine Leaf, Pencil Yam, Bean, Emu and Mountain Devil Lizard and Small Brown Grass. Her paintings – monochromatic or multi-coloured - are distinguishable for their well-defined segments filled with curved lines and evoke a strong rhythmic quality. Her style has evolved into abstract fields that represent leaves, grasses and body-paint.
About the artwork:
In this painting, Gloria paints the Bush Medicine Leaf in a gorgeous Impressionistic style. The Bush Medicine Plant is an Australian native that grows wild in Central Australia. Women go to different places around Utopia to collect leaves from these plants. Back at the camp the leaves are boiled to extract resin. Kangaroo fat is mixed into the resin, creating a paste that can be stored for a long time in bush conditions. This medicine is used to heal cuts, wounds, bites, rashes and also acts as an insect repellent. By painting "Bush Medicine", Gloria is paying homage to the spirit of the medicine plant in the hope that it will regenerate, enabling the people to continue to benefit from its healing properties.