Language Group: Anmatyerre and Alyawarre
Country: Atnwengerrp, Utopia Region, North East of Alice Springs
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas and Linen
Subjects: Grass Seed Dreaming, Wild Flowers, My Mother's Country, Creation of My Mother's Country, Beginning of the Creation, My Place, Countryside, Bush Berry
Barbara Florence Weir was born in 1940 at what was formerly known as Derry Downs Station in the region of Utopia, North East of Alice Springs; her mother the late Minnie Pwerle, renowned Utopia and Australian artist, and her father an Irish station owner Jack Weir.
Being of mixed heritage Barbara was hidden from welfare patrol from the age of two and 'grown up' by her Aunty, the most famed female Aboriginal artist of all time, the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye. At the age of nine Barbara was taken away from her family by welfare while collecting water at Utopia Station, now known as Utopia Homestead. She is one of the people known as the 'stolen generation'. Barbara was taken to Bungalow (now known as the Telegraph Station) to get cleaned up, and then taken to St Mary's Home in Alice Springs. She was later moved to various children's homes around Australia, first in Victoria followed by the Receiving Home in Darwin and the Good Shepherd Home in Ipswich, before eventually returning to Darwin. During these years she was forced to speak English and forget her native tongue, and was told that her mother was dead. Though she lost contact with her family she was determined to return to them, to show she was alive and reclaim her heritage.
In the late 1960's Barbara was fortunate to find her family and returned to Utopia, the land of her birth, with her three children. The reunion was a happy one, but it was marred by the fact that Barbara was unable to communicate with the family, as she did not speak the language. Over the course of the next two and a half decades, Barbara had three more children and mastered both the Anmatyerre and Alyawarre languages and is one of the few people to do so from scratch.
On returning to her home and her unique relationship with Emily Kame Kngwarreye (who was then a well known batik artist) Barbara became interested in painting and showed a flair and talent for the art. In 1994, Barbara and other Aboriginal women travelled to Indonesia to learn more about the art of batik. The Utopia women were well known for their beautiful batiks as this contributed to the Aboriginal community buying back the region of Utopia in 1974 and making it their own.
Barbara returned from Indonesia full of ideas for developing her own creative style. In 1996 Barbara travelled to Switzerland and Paris at the request of a gallery owner who commissioned some of Barbara's work. The collection was a sellout and ensured Barbara's place as a respected artist.
In 1996, after the death of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Barbara concentrated on developing her skill as an artist and soon attracted the attention of collectors by producing works that were contemporary in style, including her now famed Grass Seed paintings. Inspired by a small grass found in Utopia called Lyaw, Munyeroo or Pigweed, Barbara's Grass Seed paintings consist of a series of small brush strokes that overlap and weave to create a swaying effect. It is an energetic style exclusive to Barbara.
My Mother's Country, another renowned style of Barbara's, is a series of works testament to her skill as an artist. Completely different to the Grass Seed, these works are an intricate formation of dot work, with various background shapes representing different aspects of the country. This background can be very subtle or quite dramatic in appearance depending on the main theme, but this series of works illustrates Barbara's knowledge and respect for her country. Barbara's limited Countryside paintings depict similar subjects with subtle differences in colour and dot work.
In 2002, Barbara moved back to Central Australia. Keen to experiment with new designs and recreate masterpieces of the past, Barbara has all the resources at her fingertips thus allowing her creativity to fully reveal and develop into stunning works. Although now in her seventies, Barbara continues to develop her painting skill. She is always challenging and seeking new designs and methods of painting.
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA
Ebes Collection, Workum, Netherlands
The Mbantua Gallery Collection, Alice Springs NT
Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, QLD
The University of Adelaide, SA
Art Gallery of Queensland, Brisbane
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Holmes à Court Collection, Perth
Macquarie Bank Collection
Exhibitions (From 2005)
|2005||Barbara Weir and Daughter, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT|
|2005||Invitational Private Exhibition at Madigans Restaurant, Alice Springs with Mbantua Gallery to meet with HRH Prince of Wales|
|2005||Barbara Weir, Addison Road Gallery, Marrickville, NSW|
|2005||Small Wonders (A collection of 1'x1' and 1'x1½' paintings), Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, N.T|
|2005||Evolution of Utopia, Cultural Museum, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs|
|2006||Evolution of Utopia, Cultural Museum, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs|
|2007||Group exhibition, Robert Steele Gallery, NY, USA|
|2007||Standing on Ceremony, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide, SA|
|2007||Solo exhibition, Blowing in the Wind, Artmob, Hobart, Tas|
|2007||New Works from Utopia, Space Gallery, Pittsburg, PA, USA|
|2008||Dreamings the Land, Outback Aboriginal Land, Caulfield, Vic|
|2009||Holmes à Court Gallery, Perth, WA|
|2009||My Country, Dacou Gallery Melbourne, Vic|
|2009||Utopia, Colours of the Desert, Gongpyeong Art Space in collaboration with Dacou, Australian Embassy in Korea and Crossbay Gallery, Seoul, Korea|
|2010||Desert Art from Utopia, DACOU Gallery, Melbourne|
|2010||Latest Works from Barbara Weir, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs NT|
|2011||New Beginnings, Brits Arts and Promotions, Uebach-Palenberg, Germany|
|2014||New to View: Utopia, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane|
|2015||Women of Papunya, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney|
|2017||Atnwengerrp Revisited | Family Show and Artist in Residence Programme, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney|
|2018||Earth's Creation, Emily Kame and Family, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney|
|2019||Solo exhibition. Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT|
|Discovery Media:||June 2000 - Utopia Revisited - Film following Barbara Weir's rediscovery of her family.|
The site of this creation story is Anthep on Atnwengerrp country, north of the Utopia Region in Central Australia. It is the most significant site for Barbara's ancestral history. In the Dreamtime it was the first place where the dance for their stories began.
The women dance for all aspects of life, for health, sickness, food, climate conditions and cultural beliefs. As they dance in the soft dirt, they would make the dancing tracks of their stories. Each time they danced the women had to return to their own story tracks.
The underlying markings in this painting show some of these ancestral dancing tracks, as they can still be seen today, etched in the rocks at Anthep. Anthep is the Alywarre word for dance. This ancestral place remains the most significant site on Atnwengerrp country for Barbara's people today. Ceremony and dance are still performed there and it is a place where everyone, men, women and children can meet together and camp. It is also a place where permanent water can be found.