Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2018


(c.1910 – 1996)

synthetic polymer paint on linen

152.0 x 91.0 cm

bears inscription verso: artist's name, Commissioned by Delmore, and Delmore Gallery cat. 96H015

$50,000 – 70,000
Sold for $54,900 (inc. BP) in Auction 55 - 29 August 2018, Sydney

Commissioned by Delmore Gallery, Alice Springs
The Holt Collection, Alice Springs
Private collection, Melbourne


Isaacs, J., Smith, T., Ryan, J., Holt, D., and Holt, J., Emily Kame Kngwarreye Paintings, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1998, p. 189, pl. 87 (illus.)

Catalogue text

In the months before she died Emily Kame Kngwarreye was living at Delmore Downs Station with Lily Kngwarreye and her family. Although her output had reduced markedly, the final works painted for Delmore Gallery were a small group of powerful and dynamic monochromatic canvases executed on a black ground. Before beginning each new canvas, Emily would survey the various pots of coloured paints that were stored under the wide veranda of the Delmore homestead, picking out her chosen colour of red, white or blue acrylic and carrying the tin to the primed canvas where she would sit and begin the next work.

Yam Awelye, 1996 is one of those extraordinary late paintings, the single colour – here, a deep cobalt blue – applied to the canvas in sweeping arcs limited only by the reach of Emily’s outstretched arm. This intimate process between artist and canvas was related to the subject of her painting, the meandering rhizomatic roots of the Anooralya yam plant, which are mirrored in Emily’s lines randomly spreading across the canvas, intersecting, overlaying and crossing in a series of gestural strokes. Applied lightly, the paint has a translucent quality, with the arcs of colour washing across the surface.

More than two decades have passed since Emily Kngwarreye died in September 1996, yet her name remains synonymous with the best of Australian Indigenous art. An original, intuitive and often enigmatic artist, her painting career lasted less than a decade, but the critical acclaim for her prodigious output has not diminished and her reputation has been sustained both in Australia and internationally.