Life: c.1945 - 2023
Born: Bundy River, Utopia.
Central Australia’s Barbara Weir has excited audiences all over the world with highly compelling abstract canvases that masterfully evoke a timeless illusion of depth and subtle rhythmic movement. It is an art that is as remarkable in its exquisite expression as is the story of her life. Her journey has been one of extraordinary courage, determination and achievement.
Barbara Weir was born Florrie Weir to her mother the late, famous Aboriginal artist,Minnie Pwerle and her father Jack Weir, an Irish Australian stock man who owned the station next to Utopia. Sadly, Barbara is also a member of a group of Aboriginal children known as the Stolen Generation who were forcibly removed from their families for welfare purposes. Barbara was just nine years old and her family believed that she had died after she was taken away. Instead Barbara was raised in a series of foster homes.
At the age of 18, working in Darwin, Barbara met and married Mervyn Torres. It was her husband who helped her discover her origins. He enquired after Minnie Pwerle and that led to Barbara being reunited with her mother in the 1960’s. Unable to speak either of her native languages, she first met her cousin, Kathleen Petyarre and reconnected with her mother through the help of Kathleen and her aunts. During this time, she became extremely close to her Aunt - Emily Kame Kngwarreye – Australia’s most significant female artist. After her divorce in 1977, Barbara returned permanently to Utopia with her six children and became active in the local land rights movement. She was elected the first woman president of the Indigenous Urapunta Council in 1985.
Barbara’s career as an artist was inspired by the dynamic community of artists at Utopia and the work of Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Emily’s work had a profound impact on her and in the early 1990’s she began seriously to explore her artistic talents. Barbara began painting and developed a sophisticated, contemporary painting style. In 1994, she and other Aboriginal women travelled to Indonesia to learn batik techniques and in 1998, Barbara travelled to the US and all over Europe to exhibit her artworks.
Her paintings include representations of particular plants and Dreamings, inspired by deep Aboriginal tradition. Barbara is most famous for her vibrant contemporary depictions of Grass Seeds, but since the passing of her mother, she has revisited her ‘My Mothers Country’ or ‘My Mothers Story’ Dreaming, producing significant paintings with deep meaning and spirituality. For this Dreaming, Barbara creates an other worldly feel in her expression using finely executed dots in which float over organic shapes. These shapes are the areas where she has over painted to conceal symbols of sacred story that are painted beneath and not meant to be seen. Such areas refer to secret abandoned campsites that people made as they trekked across the country in search of food, women’s coolamons used to collect fruit and berries and/or forms of women’s body that are adorned with paint for ceremony. Sometimes she incorporates the linear patterns to represent women’s body designs – stripes that are traditionally applied to breasts, arms and legs for ceremonies known as Awelye.
Barbara is a highly talented, inventive, creative, energetic and hard working artist who pushes her own artistic boundaries in telling the complex and spiritual stories of her family and her people. Because of this, her important part in the Utopian community, her family connections and her difficult early life experiences, she became a highly collectible artist who even in death continues to grow in stature.
Barbara passed way in Alice Springs in January, 2023.
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Art Gallery of Queensland, Brisbane
Queensland College of Art Griffith University
Hank Ebes Collection-Workum, The Netherlands
The Art Gallery of Western Australia (through grant by Rio Tinto)
University of Adelaide, Adelaide
Macquarie Bank Collection
1995, 1997, 2003, 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, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, Quadrivium Gallery, Sydney
1996, 1997, 1998, 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, 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
2003, 2004 Group exhibitions, ‘Framed - The Darwin Gallery’ Darwin, NT.
2002, 2004 Solo exhibition at Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne, VIC.
2004, 05, 06 Group exhibitions, Gallery Savah, Sydney, NSW.
2005, 2006 Group Utopia exhibitions, Gallery Savah, Sydney, NSW.
2005, 06, 07 Group exhibition, University of NSW, Shalom Department, Kensington,
2006 Solo exhibition, “Recent Paintings”, Gallery Savah, Sydney, NSW.
2006 ‘Utopia’, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne, VIC.
2006 Group exhibition, APS Bendi Lango Art Exhibition, Rio Tinto Offices, Melbourne,
2007 Group exhibition, Robert Steele Gallery, NY, USA.
2007 “Standing on Ceremony”, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide, SA.
2007 Utopia exhibition, Robert Steele Gallery, NY, USA.
2007 Group exhibition, Australian Embassy, Washington, USA.
2007 Group exhibition, “Desert Diversity”, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne,
2007 Group exhibition, “Treasures of the Spirit – Investing in Aboriginal Art”, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide, SA.
2007 Group exhibition, Annual APS Bendi Lango Art Exhibition with Rio Tinto, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane, QLD.
2007 “Best of the Best”, group exhibition, Gallery Framed, Darwin, NT.
2007 Solo exhibition, “Blowing in the Wind”, Artmob, Hobart, TAS.
2007 “New Works from Utopia”, Space Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
2008 “Utopia Revisited”, NG Art Gallery, Chippendale, NSW.
2009 Listed in Australian Art Collector magazine as one of the 50 Australia’s Most Collectible Artists.
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Top 50 Collectible Australian Artists: Art Collector 32 (Apr–Jun 2005): 84–88.
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Usher, Robin (15 July 2004). "Joining dots on the way to Utopia". The Age. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
McCulloch, Alan; Susan McCulloch; Emily McCulloch Childs (2006). The New McCulloch's Encyclopaedia of Australian Art. Fitzroy, VIC: Aus Art Editions in association with The Miegunyah Press.
Fortescue, Elizabeth; Werner Obermeier (2008). Art of Utopia. Adelaide, SA: Boomerang Art.
Lacey, Stephen (18 November 2006). "Spirited away, but with a happy ending". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
Beck, Chris (18 February 2006). "The Pwerle Sisters". The Age. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
"Emily in Japan Part 1". Message Stick (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 26 July 2009. Archived from the original on 20 September 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
King, Victoria (2000). "Barbara Weir". In Sylvia Kleinert and Margo Neale. The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. Fortescue, Elizabeth; Werner Obermeier (2008). Art of Utopia. Adelaide, SA: Boomerang Art.
Birnberg, Margo; Janusz Kreczmanski (2004). Aboriginal Artist Dictionary of Biographies: Australian Western, Central Desert and Kimberley Region. Marleston, South Australia: J.B. Publishing.
Green, Jenny (2007). "Holding the Country: Art from Utopia and the Sandover".
In Hetti Perkins & Margie West. One Sun One Moon: Aboriginal Art in Australia. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Kreczmanski, Janusz B & Birnberg, Margo (eds.): Aboriginal Artists: Dictionary of Biographies: Central Desert, Western Desert & Kimberley Region (JB Publishing Australia, Marleston, 2004)