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LANGUAGE GROUP: Anmatyerre
COMMUNITY: Utopia, NT
Ada Bird was born in circa 1936 in the Utopia region, located 270 kms North-East from Alice Springs, in Central Australia. Her language is Anmatyerre and her country is Atnangkere. Ada was a widow with six children, two of whom are now also artists, June & Hilda Bird. Ada sadly passed away in June 2009 and is missed by all her family.
Ada was one of seven sisters and these include the well-known Gloria and Kathleen Petyarre and Nancy, Violet, Myrtle and Jean Petyarre who are also talented artists. Lindsay Bird, a highly respected tribal elder and another well known artist, was Ada’s brother in law.
As with many women from the Utopia region, Ada first began to paint using the medium of canvas and acrylics in 1979. Previously, Ada had been involved in the art of batik and was one of the women included in the project of making batik on material, and as a result is featured in the book titled “Utopia- A Picture Story” .
Ada’s work is very distinctive by her use of dot work and colour. Her main Dreaming is “Awelye” (Body Paint) where Ada depicts the various ceremonial designs painted on the breasts and stomach of the women. This style of work was acquired by the National Gallery of Australia and is a trademark of her work. As a senior law woman, Ada was a custodian for many Dreamings which include “Mountain Devil”, “Yam” “Grass Seed” and “Emu”. In all her “Awelye” paintings, the designs she paints make reference to her Dreamings and the ceremonial designs associated with them.
Ada’s traditional style of painting involved the use of dot work and in the 90’s Ada branched into a liner design with minimal or no dot work. The overall effect was extremely free flowing and dramatic, highlighting Ada’s great use of colour.
Ada resided at Mulga Bore and mainly painted in Alice Springs where her work was highly sought after by many Gallery dealers and private collectors. Her work has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions across Australia and overseas in Europe, US, Japan and Hong Kong.
Copyright to this biography belongs to Pwerle Gallery.
2010 “Gloria Petyarre, Recent Works”, group exhibition with Gloria’s sisters DACOU Melbourne, Middle Park, VIC.
2006 Evolution of Utopia, Mbantua Gallery Cultural Museum, Alice Springs.
2005-2006 “Black Abstract”, touring group exhibition, Woolloongabba Art Gallery, Brisbane, QLD.
2002 Mixed Utopia exhibition at Galerie a Le Temps Du Reve, France.
2002 Mixed Utopia exhibition at Knut Grothe Galeri in Charlottlenlund, Copenhagen.
2001 ‘Desert Colour, My Country”- combined exhibition at Raintree Aboriginal Art Gallery, Darwin, NT.
2001 “Painting Country”- combined exhibition at Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide, SA.
2001 Included artist in the prestigious YPO conference held in Sydney, NSW, organised by Tim Jennings of Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT.
2000 Combined exhibition at Mary Place Gallery- Sydney.
2000 DACOU Combined exhibition held in association with AMP- an official sponsor of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. This exhibition was held in the AMP building-Sydney.
2000 Combined exhibition- Tandanya Cultural Institute- Adelaide.
1999 Combined exhibition- “Caring For Country’ Tandanya Cultural Institute – Adelaide.
1999 Combined exhibition- ‘Utopia V”- Quadrivium Gallery Sydney.
1999 Combined exhibition- ‘Utopia”- BMG Art- Adelaide.
1998 Combined exhibition in The Adelaide Festival Theatre.
1998 “Raiki Wara”, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, VIC.
96-06 “Nangara”, Aboriginal Gallery of Dreamings, Australia and touring internationally.
93-94 “Aratjara”, touring Dusseldorf and Germany.
1992 “My Story, My Country: Aboriginal Art and the Land” Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, NSW.
1991 “The Aboriginal Women’s Exhibition”, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, NSW.
1990 Solo exhibition, Utopia Art Sydney, Alexandria, NSW.
1990 “Utopia – A Picture Story”, works from the Holmes ‘ a Court Collection, touring Australia, Ireland and Scotland. Ada’s Bird batik features on the catalogue cover.
National Gallery of Australia