aboriginal artist: Barbara Weir

Barbara Florence Weir was born in 1945 at what was formerly known as Bundy River Station in the region of Utopia, North East of Alice Springs. Her mother was 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 Shepherds 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 to 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 Alyawarr 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 traveled 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 Pigsweed, 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.

Exhibitions:

1995, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2009 Dacou Gallery, Adelaide
1995, Davis Avenue Gallery, Melbourne
1996, 2002, Framed Gallery, Darwin
1996, Gallery Woo Mang and Partners, Paris, France
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2006, 2007 , 2008 Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, Quadrivium Gallery, Sydney
1996, 1997, 1998, 2008 Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane
1997, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
1997, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney
1997, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
1997, Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney
1998, ARTEXPO, New York, USA
1998, 2001, Chapman Gallery, Canberra
1998, Adelaide Festival Theatre, Adelaide
1998, Exhibited extensively in Europe including: Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands
1999, 2002, Japingka Gallery, Perth
1999, 2000, 2001, Tandanya, Adelaide
1999, 2000, 2002, 2006 Gallery Savah, Sydney
2000, ArtSauce, Singapore
2000, Redback Art Gallery, Brisbane
2000, AMP Building, Sydney
2000, “Women’s Business”, Chicago, USA
2001, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2002, Knut Grothe Galeri, Charlottlenlund, Copenhagen, Denmark
2003, Alison Kelly Gallery, Melbourne
2003, Glen Eira City Council Gallery, Melbourne
2004, Addison Road Gallery, Marrickville, NSW.
2004, Mbantua Gallery (USA exhibition: Portland, Nashville, Knoxville, Hartford, Greenwich, Philadelphia and New York).
2006, APS Bendi Lango Art Exhibition, Rio Tinto Offices, Melbourne.
2007, Australian Embassy, Washington, USA.
2007, “New Works from Utopia”, Space Gallery, Pittsburgh, USA
2008, Gecko Gallery, Broome.
2008, “Walking Together to Aid Aboriginal Health”, Shalom Gamarada Aboriginal Art Exhibition, University of NSW, Kensington, NSW.
2008, “Utopia Revisited”, NG Art Gallery, Chippendale, NSW.
2008, “Dreamings – The Land”, Outback Aboriginal Land, Caulfield, VIC.
2008, Red Rock Gallery, Beijing, China.
2009, Janet Holmes a Court Gallery, Perth.
2009, “Utopia, Colours of the Desert”, Gongpyeong Art Space in collaboration with Dacou, Australian Embassy in Korea and Crossbay Gallery, Seoul, Korea.
2010, “In the Footprints of Barbara Weir”, Central Art, Alice Springs
2012, “Barbara Weir”, Kate Owen Gallery, NSW

Collections:

Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Art Gallery of Queensland, Brisbane
Artbank, Sydney

Queensland College of Art Griffith University
Ebes Collection-Workum, The Netherlands
University of Adelaide, Adelaide
AMP Collection