Gloria Petyarre - MOUNTAIN DEVIL LIZARD GP1645

Gloria Petyarre Mountain Devil Lizard Australian Aboriginal Art Painting on canvas GP1645


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Artist: Gloria Petyarre
Skin Name: Pwerle (Pwerl) 
Born: c.1945
Region: Utopia
Language: Anmatyerre
Subjects and Themes(Dreaming): Mountain Devil Lizard, Arnkerrthe Dreaming (Swirls), Bush Medicine Leaves.



Gloria was born in about 1945 at Atnangkere Soakage in the Northern Territory. She is an Anmatyerre speaker and has 6 sisters: Ada Bird, Violet, Myrtle, Kathleen, Nancy and Jeannie.

Her dreamings include Mountain Devil Lizard, Bean, Emu, Pencil Yam, Grass Seed, Small Brown Grass, Wild Flowers, Bush Flowers and Bush Medicine. Currently, she lives at Mulga Bore (Akaye Soakage) Utopia. Gloria Petyarre has participated in both group and solo exhibitions since the 1980's. She has travelled to Ireland, London, Paris, USA, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries exhibiting her works. Her work is included in the collections of the Australian National State Galleries including the National Gallery of Australia, the Powerhouse Museum -Sydney, Westpac New York, Holmes Court and many other private collections. In 1999 Gloria won the prestigious art award, the Wynne Prize, for the Best Australian landscape. Gloria first gained recognition in silk batik which began at Utopia in 1978 with exhibitions held nationally and internationally. In 1988 Gloria was part of the very first group to experiment with canvas, called the Summer Project, and Gloria has since continued to work in this medium. Awelye, the women's ceremonial body paint designs, was the subject of Gloria's very first painting, she recalls. Over the years Gloria has applied many methods of enhancing the simple linear work in her Awelye paintings, including using sponges, hand work and even a toilet brush. One of Gloria's most important Dreamtime stories is that of Arnkerrthe, the Mountain Devil Lizard. Arnkerrthe travelled over Gloria's land creating all of the people, sacred sites, songs and other Dreamtime stories. In its neck it holds a sac of ochre that Gloria and her people use for ceremonies. Gloria has developed a very popular style for Arnkerrthe Dreaming that she calls the 'swirly ones'. A unique design by Gloria, these swirls represent the thorny skin on the back of this gentle little lizard. By far the most well known of all Gloria's paintings is Leaves. In April 1994 at Mosquito Bore in Utopia, Gloria began doing something new on her canvas. "That first one. I was looking, looking. Looks like leaf, and I been put another one and another one and 'ah yeah'. First leaf." (Gloria Petyarre). Throughout the years this design has become more refined, leaves aren't just scattered on the ground but rather picked up in swift passing zephyrs, entangled in whirls of wind and swept across the landscape. This life energy attributed to the success of Leaves, winning Gloria the very prestigious Wynne Prize in 1999, and highly recommended in 2004. The Wynne prize is awarded annually for the best landscape painting of Australian scenery or for the best example of figure sculpture by Australian artists.



  • 1985, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
  • 1989 Utopia Women's Paintings. The First Works on Canvas. A Summer Project, SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney. Australia.
  • 1989-91 Utopia A Picture Story. Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide. Australia.
  • 1989-93 8th National Aboriginal Art Awards, Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin. Australia
  • 1998 Utopia and Balgo Hills, Aboriginal Art Galerie Baehr, Speyer, Germany
  • 1998 Culture Store, Art Gallery, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • 1998, 2000, 2003 Chapel off Chapel Gallery, Melbourne
  • 1998, 2000, 2003 Chapel off Chapel Gallery, Melbourne
  • 1998 Dreamings, Spazio Pitti Arte, Florenz. Italy.
  • 1999 Alliance Francaise de Canberra and French Embassy, Australia
  • 1999 Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs. Australia.
  • 1999 Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, Australia.
  • 1999 My Country Journey of our Ancestors, Ancient Earth Indigenous Art, Cairns
  • 2000 Kunst der Aborigines, Leverkusen, Germany
  • 2000 Mosquito Bore The Art of the Minimalist, Ancient Earth Indigenous Art, Australia.
  • 2001 Francaise de Canberra. Canberra. Australia
  • 2001 The Unseen in Scene. Staedfische Galerie Wolfsburg. Germany.
  • 2001-02 Recounting the Essence of Life. Art from Australia. Kunstforum HDZ, Bad Oeynhausen, Germany.
  • 2002 Land is Life, Art from Australia. Jagdschloss Granitz, Binz, Ruegen, Germany
  • 2002 Kult (o) urnacht, Aboriginal Art Galerie Baer, Seyer, Germany



  • Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
  • Queensland Art Gallery Brisbane
  • Slaughter and May International Law Collection, London, U.K.
  • National Gallery of Australia (Canberra)
  • Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory (Darwin)
  • Art Bank (Sydney)
  • National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne)
  • Art Gallery of Western Australia (Perth)
  • Homes a Court Gallery and gallery Collection (Perth)


SOURCE: Birnberg, M & Kreczmanski, JB 2004, Aboriginal artists dictionary of biographies: Western Desert, Central Desert and Kimberley Region, 1st edn., JB Publishing, Marleston.

This painting depicts the pattern of the Mountain Devil Lizard's skin. It is believed that during Dream-time creation the Mountain Devil Lizard collected ochre colours and deposited it throughout certain regions Utopia in Central Australia.

Certain people who own Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming use these colours for their ceremonies. The Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming is one of the most significant Dream-time Stories for the famous Petyarre sisters of Utopia. Each sister interprets this story in a unique way, but in all their works the sisters demonstrate their connection between their past and the present.


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