Kathleen Ngale was born circa 1933 at the Camel Camp Station in Utopia, 240 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, an area known for its respected artists. Kathleen began her artistic career in the 1970s within the Batik movement that was most prominent in Utopia. This movement was an initiation into the art world for many female artists in the area.
In the 1980s the availability of acrylic paint caused a movement toward painting canvas of which Kathleen was an active participant. As one of the most senior Anmatyerre elders and a custodian of the Anwekety (Bush Plum), Kathleen depicts this local food source from her traditional country, Ahalpere. By painting this imagery Kathleen is passing down important cultural knowledge to younger generations and celebrating the food sources that her country has provided her ancestors with for hundreds of years.
These paintings, that represent the seasonal changes of the flowers and their fruits, show the vibrant colours that bloom in the Utopia region after the rain season. While the Bush Plums are actually small black conkerberries, Kathleen paints their flowers using complex layers of dotting. The underlying deeper tones are overlaid with subtly blended highlights, creating an intricacy that allows variations in the depth to occur. These dynamic works have been compared to the works of celebrated artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye, placing Kathleen soundly within a context of well established peer within the Australian indigenous art world.
A finalist in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award in 2000 and 2008, Professor of Art History at the Australian National University Sir William Dobell remarked, “Although Kathleen Ngale has been painting for over two decades, it is only in recent years that she has been acclaimed as one of the most significant and exciting artists in contemporary Utopia painting, creating memorable and visually dazzling paintings... She is an artist who has created an unique and distinctive stylistic language, one of visual power and resonance.”