Utopia, Northern Territory
Born 1954, Utopia Homestead, Northern Territory
Lives and works in Utopia, Northern Territory
The son of Rosie Kunoth Kngwarreye, Dinni was born in 1954 at Utopia Homestead. As a young man he worked on the stations, branding and mustering cattle at Amaroo, Waite River and Utopia Stations. Dinni had witnessed the emergence of the art movement, and assisted his wife in the laborious process of harvesting wood for her sculptures. Together, the pair would ‘head out bush’ with their axes to find the soft-wooded bean trees (Erythrina vespertilio). Sometimes these trips would require 100 kilometre long drives to find appropriate trees. After felling the tree, they would bring the trunk back to their camp, where they would carve it using tomahawks, files, sandpaper and a large rasp.
From the outset, the subject of birds has been heavily featured in the oeuvre of both Josie and Dinni. A wild aviary has sprung from their collective artistic imagination. Whether eagle, owl, emu or hawk, each is created unique, coloured with its own eccentric disposition. But beyond revelling in natural variety, their dedication to avian form reveals an intuitively modernist project of repetition and refinement in which the artists explore the reductive potential of both the sculptural medium and this favoured motif.
Since 2005, Dinni has spearheaded a revival in the Utopian sculptural tradition that first emerged in the late 1980s under the stewardship of art co-ordinator Rodney Gooch. Since 2007, Dinni has risen to prominence as a consummate observer and compulsive chronicler. In his art, the minutiae of everyday life becomes a worthy subject for artistic exaltation, demonstrating a vision unencumbered by restrictive binary notions of ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’. Art has always been a part of the Indigenous cultural backdrop, connecting Indigenous people to the world around them and the immutable Dreaming. The art of Dinni Kunoth Kemarre shows us just how adaptive this cosmology could be.
Berndt Museum of Anthropology, University of Western Australia, WA
Gold Coast City Art Collection, QLD
City of Perth Collection, Perth, WA
Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth, WA