Lena Pwerle - Soakage
Artist: Lena Pwerle
Size: 30 x 30 cm
Acrylic on linen.
Stretched and ready to hang.
In this painting, Lena uses circular designs to represent soakages that dot her land in the Utopia Region. Lena recalls that these soakages, now all dried and used up, had plenty of water in them long ago, even when she was growing up, providing her people with a much needed water supply. With their intimate knowledge of the land, Lena's people knew how and where to find them in their harsh desert environment.
'Long time [ago] olden time mob get their little coolamon (bowl), they check them [soakages] - proper good one water! They been find 'em under the ground. My grandmother taught me where to find 'em. They dry now, they finish. They [my people] drink bore water now' - Lena Pwerle, 7th Oct 2008.
Born: c. 1934
Language Group: Anmatyerre
Country: Ahalpere, Utopia Region, North East of Alice Springs
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas and Linen, Batik on Silk, Wood Carving
Subjects: Soakage, Awelye (Women's Ceremony and Body Paint Designs), Anwekety (Conkerberry or Bush Plum) Dreaming
Lena, wife of the late Left Hand Sam Kngwarreye, is mother to five children including that of artist Nora Petyarre. Lena grew up at Utopia Homestead, some 240km North East of Alice Springs with her siblings Ray Loy, Cowboy Loy and Louie (Louis) Pwerle. Lena has also lived in many other places in the Utopia Region, including that of Ngkwarlerlaneme in the northern reaches of the Utopia region where she lived with her husband and children for many years.
Initially Lena worked in the medium of batik along with over eighty other women from the Utopia Region in Central Australia. Her work in batik is featured in 'Utopia - A Picture Story'. In 1996 she was invited to represent Australia in Western Samoa for the Festival of Pacific Arts where she was marked as 'among the best available talent'. In this same year she also traveled to Indonesia with other women of Utopia for a workshop funded by the Northern Territory Department of Education so that they could learn more about the art of batik.
Lena began painting for Mbantua Gallery in the mid 1990's. Lena has maintained and developed a number of unique styles over the years. Firstly a fine circular pattern of dots in some of Lena's earliest works reflect Soakages (or waterholes) that are spread across her land. Unkempt arced motifs represent her Awelye (women's ceremonial body paint designs). Short repetitive linear work accented with fine dots make up her Anwekety (conkerberry) paintings. Traditional colours of ochre reds, tawny yellows and soft whites, of which belong to her country Ahalpere, bequeath her early Soakage paintings and Awelye paintings with simplicity, and great mixes of colours are deliciously abundant in her Anwekety paintings and later Soakage works.
Lena enjoys painting very much and is always found encouraging other family members to do so. Lena is a senior boss woman at Utopia and is on a number of government boards including the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (which protects the sacred sites within the NT) and the Urapuntja council which governs Utopia. Lena's personality reflects this immense responsibility while exuding good nature and humour. A number of women's ceremonies have been performed at Mbantua Gallery over the years, and Lena has predominately been the woman behind the scenes ensuring that Utopia ladies participate to promote their culture as well as have fun.
The Holmes á Court Collection, Perth
Mbantua Gallery Permanent Collection, Alice Springs
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
|1985||The Second National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin|
|1989||Utopia Women's Paintings, the First Works On Canvas, A Summer Project, 1988-89, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney|
|1990||Utopia A Picture Story, an exhibition of 88 works on silk from the Holmes á Court Collection by Utopia artists which toured Eire and Scotland|
|1991||The Eighth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin|
|1992||Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs|
|1994||Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs|
|1999||Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT|
|2001||Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT|
|2002||Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville TN; 'The Cove Gallery' Portland OR; Urban Wine Works, Portland OR; Mary's Woods, Portland OR; New City Merchants, Knoxville, TN|
|2003||Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville TN; 'The Cove Gallery', Portland OR; Contemporary Aboriginal Art Event, Umpqua Bank, Portland OR; Mary's Woods, Portland OR; Art From The Dreamtime, Portland Art Museum, Portland OR|
|2004||Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: Hartford, Connecticut|
|2004||Evolution of Utopia, Mbantua Gallery Cultural Museum, Alice Springs, NT, opened by the Honorable Robert Hill|
|2005||Evolution of Utopia, Mbantua Gallery Cultural Museum, Alice Springs, NT, opened by the Honorable Robert Hill|
|2005||'Small Wonders', Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT|
|2006||Evolution of Utopia, Mbantua Gallery Cultural Museum, Alice Springs, NT, opened by the Honorable Robert Hill|
|2009||Utopia Artists in the 21st Century, Mbantua Gallery Darwin, Darwin NT|
|2009||Soakages, Solo Exhibition, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs|
|2014||Narrativa Herióca - Pintura Aborígine do Deserto Australiano - Renaissance Hotel, São Paulo, Brazil|
|2014||Arca Urbana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil|