Gracie Pwerle Morton
Size: 200 x 110cm
Acrylic on Canvas
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Born on Utopia Station, c.1956, Gracie Morton Pwerle is the daughter of well-known artist MyrtlePetyarre and the sister of famous artists Gloria and Kathleen Petyarre. There is a rich artistic tradition that runs through Gracie’s family as well as the Utopia community. Not only Gracie’s aunties but her sisters, Mary, Rita, and Elizabeth, are also artists.
Gracie Morton began painting in the late 1980s during the “A Summer Project”, where acrylic paints and canvas were introduced to the women of Utopia. Her artworks have been well received throughout Australia and overseas. Gracie is a senior traditional custodian of the Arnwekety (Bush Plum) Dreaming, and in accordance with traditional law she is responsible for ensuring the Dreaming, customs, and traditions associated with the Bush Plum are upheld. This responsibility was passed down to Gracie from her father and aunt.
Gracie’s primary subject in her artwork is Arnwekety and through her artwork, she depicts the changing seasonal influences on the plant. Gracie creates a wonderful lyricism in her artworks, causing a three-dimensional visual effect that guides the observer through the soft outward-reaching fields of color.
Gracie’s artworks are represented in major private collections including the Holmes à Court Collection and her artworks are exhibited regularly throughout Australia. She has been a part of international exhibitions in China, Germany, Italy, and The Netherlands.
Roseanne Morton Petyarre is an Anmatyerre woman from the Utopia region of Central Australia. Utopia is an old outstation located 270km northeast of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. She was born in 1984 and is part of a family of well-established artists, including her mother Gracie Morton Pwerle
The Story of the Bush Plum Dreaming
Gracie’s paintings are borne from traditional knowledge and her confident approach to painting is evident in the way she assembles the images of the bush seeds, piling dots over each other to create a dense surface using a rich palette of color. Gracie’s subject matter is drawn from acute observation and memory. There is an intimate knowledge of country, blended with personal history and ancestral journey.
The Bush Plum Dreaming Story is a big story that spreads right across the western and central deserts from Lajamanu and Warlpiri country to the Utopia homelands.
The Bush Plum Dreaming or Creation Story from the Utopia region goes like this: In the Dreamtime, winds blew from all directions carrying the bush plum seed to the artists’ ancestral lands. The first bush plum of the Dreamings grew and bore fruit and dropped more seeds. Many winds blew the seeds all over the Dreaming lands.
To ensure the continued fruiting of this plant each season, the Aboriginal people pay homage to the spirit of the bush plum by painting about it and recreating it in their ceremonies through song and dance. The patterns in the paintings celebrate the Bush Plum work on many levels: they represent the fruit of the plant, its leaves, and flowers and also the body paint designs that are associated with it during the ceremony.
The bush plum is a popular variety of bush tucker that is only found at certain times of the year. It is found throughout most of the Utopia region and as far west as Lajamanu. Sadly, it has declined in abundance due to the grazing of introduced animals, particularly cattle and rabbits. The bush plum fruits in the summer after rain and is an important food source, even though not all the plum is edible. The plums can be collected when ripe and immediately eaten, or they can be dried and eaten later.
When young, the fruit is green in appearance but as it matures, it becomes a purple-black color and is similar in looks to an olive. The plant can grow up to 3 meters high and has blue-green leaves and produces a creamy white flower, making it an attractive-looking plant.
The bush plum also plays an important part in Warlpiri Dreaming and ritual practices involved in Yilpinji, Love Magic. When a girl falls in love she goes to her female relatives and is instructed on how to attract her man as a lover. She weaves a belt out of her hair while singing Yilpinji songs imbuing the belt with magic. When the man approaches she entices him with her charms until he comes under the influence of her allure. She reveals the belt as his ardor grows and persuades him to place the belt around her waist. As he does, he falls under her spell and they go off together as a couple. Together they eat bush plums and hunt for food.
Other important Warlpiri, on learning of their tryst, follows them and confront them as a couple and also eat the bush plums. In this way, the group recognizes their relationship and acknowledges that it is an appropriate match. They are now recognized by all as a couple.
Just like the artists from which Belinda learned, she possesses an innate sense of color. This style of work has often been compared to that of the 19th-century Impressionists; reminiscent of the color fields used and their immediate emotive quality.