Breaking News: Aboriginal Flag now freely available for public use

When Indigenous artist Harold Thomas raised his Aboriginal Flag design in 1971 at a land rights rally in Victoria Square, Adelaide, on then-National Aborigines Day, it immediately resonated with Australia’s First Nations people. And every time over the past 50 years it has flown, it has grown in significance and meaning.

Learn More About the Aboriginal Flag


By King SarritaArtwork by Sarrita King

When copyright issues restricting its use became known to current Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt AM, it began a lengthy consultation process to support Mr Thomas to maintain the integrity of the flag and allow freer use.

On the 25th of January 2022, it was announced that the Aboriginal Flag copyright had been transferred to the Commonwealth. The Australian government paid $20.05 million to Mr Thomas and licence holders to extinguish most of the licences and secure copyright.

A commercial company will keep its exclusive licence to be able to manufacture Aboriginal flags for global commercial use, but the government said the company would not stop people from making their own flags for personal use.

Gadigal Artist and former Aboriginal Art Association of Australia board member Kate Constantine gave evidence at the Senate Enquiry leading to this outcome. She said “it was extremely important for me to be part of this discussion. Our flag holds so much value for the Aboriginal people, one of strength, power and love, it’s a national shame that the copyright for the flag itself wasn’t considered in 1995 when it was ratified as an official flag of the nation by the Commonwealth.

"This has caused much pain, heartache and divisiveness within our community. I am hopeful that this outcome allows our people to again be proud of our flag, and I would also like to think that this payout represents to Aboriginal artists a benchmark for the fair payment and treatment of their artworks copyright.”

So how did they come to the amount of $20.05 million? In an opinion piece Mr Wyatt explains that they had to discharge the three existing licence arrangements. This included estimating the potential revenue over the life of the contracts and reaching agreements with the licensees on appropriate compensation for them giving up their exclusive rights. The intrinsic value of the Flag also had to be considered. No small feat I’m sure!

Mr Thomas has said he hoped Australians would use the flag with respect and pride. “I am grateful that my art is appreciated by so many, and that it has come to represent something so powerful to so many.

“The Flag represents the timeless history of our land and our people’s time on it. It is an introspection and appreciation of who we are. It draws from the history of our ancestors, our land, and our identity and will honour these well into the future.”

With this news, it certainly is a symbol that can now be celebrated and shared by all Australians– growing in strength and meaning for generations to come.


Obituary Gloria Petyarre | Kate Owen Gallery

The world seems a little less bright after learning of the passing of the incomparable Ms G.Petyarre on 8 June 2021. She was one of Australia’s most successful and significant female artists and this news is a great loss to the art world and those people who knew her personally or through her paintings.

So how did a woman raised in a remote part of the Eastern Desert and instructed in Anmatyerre law and traditions capture the hearts of art lovers around the world? Petyarre participated in the first art programs organized at Utopia in 1977.

The batik-making workshops marked the emergence of Aboriginal women artists, and from the outset Petyarre’s richly colourful works were informed by the natural shapes and patterns of local leaves, flowers, seeds and grasses. They reflected the daily interaction of desert women with their environment.

When acrylic paints and canvas were introduced in the 1980’s her talent was immediately apparent. Working alongside Emily Kame Kngwarreye and inspired by the older woman’s groundbreaking success and brave, expressive abstraction, Gloria excitedly began to experiment and freely. She tapped into her own experiences to produce a confident and distinctive style.

In 1999, Petyarre burst onto the Australian art scene in a big way when she won the prestigious Wynne Prize for Landscape. She was the first Indigenous Australian to win a major non-Indigenous art prize, cementing her name in art history.

Gloria continued to become a worldwide success with her unique subject matter and remarkable ability to depict her ancient dreaming stories in a highly contemporary and expressive manner. Her depiction of the Kurrajong bush medicine leaves—with her layered, free-flowing, swirling brushstrokes that scatter across the canvas—became her iconic motif.

An artist of great versatility, Petyarre experimented with her iconic subject matter, producing what is known as her ‘Big Leaf’ paintings, as well as her Thorny Mountain Devil Lizard, Yam and Grass Seed Dreaming.

To watch Petyarre paint was a pleasure and a priveldge. Her tangible excitement resulted in artworks that are pulsating with life. She could be heard singing the old songs; Awelye, little lizard. Her brush seemed to move to the rhythm of her songs.

Patyarre was selected as a Wynne Prize finalist four more times, and her work was featured numerous times in the “Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Art Award”.  She has travelled internationally with her work to Europe, America and Asia. She is held in major collections both nationally and internationally.

Her list of artistic achievements is immense and her gift as an artist has touched many people - but it was her personal presence that left the greatest impact. She took great pleasure in travelling with her art to many countries, participating in significant exhibitions and projects. The delight she took in meeting new people, unreservedly sharing the stories and songs of her Country are some of our most cherished memories of her.

Whilst we are feeling the loss of our dear friend, our hearts are also aching for Ms Petyarre’s large extended family (many of whom we also represent at the gallery) who are experiencing immeasurable grief..

She was a woman of immesurable generosity. Her beauty truly radiated from the inside out and manifested itself in her stunning artworks that are cherished by people around the world.

During this sad time, it does give us comfort to know that her beautiful spirit will continue to radiate through her canvases.

Travel safely home to Anmatyerre Country. You will be dearly missed.


How do you know when you've found 'the one'?

Not the man or woman of your dreams, but the perfect artwork for your home or office!

With over 2,000 artworks here at the gallery, the process of finding 'the one' may seem daunting - but we've asked our amazing art consultants (who have over 50 years experience in art consultancy combined!) what are the key signs they know their clients have found their perfect artwork. 

 If you compare every other possible artwork to it, chances are you've found the one!

What if I said I had another client who wanted to purchase the artwork today - how would you feel? If you wouldn't be that bothered, maybe it isn't the one for you..

Daniel Goldshaft, Senior Art Consultant

This is why I love our home trial service! You can learn a lot about your taste this way. Like music, some art takes time to get to know. Sometimes the best art reveals itself slowly.... at the end of the home trial period, are you still admiring the artwork and finding wonderful new details you didn't notice before? Or perhaps you already can't imagine the space without it!  

If you're  emotionally invested in a couple of artworks and can't decide, sometimes it's good to refer back to the key guidelines you had when you first started looking for a piece of art; did you have a particular size in mind? Did you want the space to have a certain 'feel'? Or do you want an artwork that is bold, vibrant or quiet? If the artwork ticks all the boxes, then bingo! you've found it!

Some couples have such different styles and aesthetics, just finding ONE artwork that you both agree is beautiful is an amazing feat (I've had some clients that have had to wait 12 months for this moment to happen!) When that moment does happen - snap up the artwork pronto to avoid disappointment!

I always say 'go with your gut' even if you don't know how it will work with other pieces in your house...If you always follow your instincts you'll find over time your own unique aesthetic shines through, and you'll have a home full of treasured  pieces that each hold a special story for you.

     I think buying a piece of art should be a pleasurable, fun experience. If you feel like you need to make a quick decision as you feel the need for closure, or you have a pressing deadline, it might be best to place the artwork on hold for 24 hours, or take it on a home trial. We want you to be 100% happy with your selection.

It can get very busy on the weekends in the gallery, so come prepared if you can, know the size that you require and, if possible, bring photos on your phone of the space.

 Remember it’s not always about the look of the painting in isolation, but how it will influence your space. Let our experienced staff guide you.

Surrey Webb, Senior Art Consultant

If you're new to the concept of buying art, then sign up to our mailing list and come along to our exhibitions! You’ll soon discover the myriad of different styles of art that are out there. The more you’re able see and experience, the more you’ll discover the works that pull at your heart. See if you can time your visit with one of our artist in residence programs. Learning the process, techniques and concepts behind a piece can give you a whole new perspective on what it means and how it makes you feel. Take notes on the types of works that speak to you the most – is there a particular style, medium or theme that you seem attracted to consistently?

  Just remember, you’re the one who will be admiring this piece on your wall, day in and day out. While we can direct you towards a particular artist you might like, when it comes to choosing something for your home, it’s entirely personal. You don’t want to spend the big dollars on a piece that you tire of within a year! Your friends and our art consultants may have lots of experience and knowledge about an artists’ standing in the market, but they don’t know your home or your personal preferences. Trust yourself.

Your taste is always growing and evolving. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. You may find that as time passes, you’ll be drawn into different styles, colours and genres – but that’s just part of the fun! Keep an open mind when visiting the gallery and you might surprise yourself with how diverse your art taste really is. There are no boundaries and the only person you need to please is yourself – so let yourself fly free! 

If you find an artwork that you can’t stop thinking about, chances are it’s meant to be in your life.

Kirby Olave, Indigenous Art Consultant

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Introducing Niah Juella

It is with great excitement that we are hosting the first Sydney solo exhibition for Niah Juella McLeod, an exciting new voice in the contemporary Indigenous art scene, winner of the 2017 Paddington Art Prize Young Artist Award and finalist in this year’s Paddington Art Prize. Niah is a descendant from the Monero, Wandandian and Yuin people from south eastern Australia and her works tell of stories passed down from her parents which are unique to her history.

As the daughter of artist Kathrin Sharp and Aboriginal activist, poet, healer, musician and Yuin Elder Bobby McLeod, Niah's works tell of stories passed down and unique to her history.
A fine dot artist, Niah  began painting as a form of meditation, only first exhibiting her work in public in 2015! We instantly noticed Niah's incredible talent at the 2017 Paddington Art Prize, where Niah stunned visitors and the judges alike with her incredible depiction of “Ngudjung Yugarang” – Mother’s Heartbeat. 
Niah's art continues to develop and we are delighted to present her latest body of work - the meditative process is evident in her works and explores her spiritual and physical connection with place and people. Enjoy!


Interview with Niah Juella McLeod

Do you remember the first time you picked up the brush and started painting?

Yes, I was actually living overseas at the time.. a friend of mine had an art studio so I would to spend a lot of my days in there hanging out with her and one day picked up the brush and starting doodling on her “offcuts”. It wasn’t until I moved home though that I painted my first painting, I would say I have definitely become more intricate with my paintings… I do worry less though about the tiny little imperfections, I’ve come to really love those and I feel like it makes a painting more unique.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I’ve always drawn and painted, Mum always encouraged both my brother & I to be creative. We were always surrounded by beautiful artworks my grandmother brought back from different remote Aboriginal communities where she worked as a nurse and midwife.
Drawing and painting was always something to me more like meditation, a way to switch off or tune out; not realising until later it was doing the opposite. I only really painted here and there and doodled in books like my art diary, then decided to move Sydney just over a year ago. I was signed with a modelling agency and working full time.
Within the first week of living in Sydney I took myself off to the South Coast, I needed to see my Grandmother whom I hadn’t seen since I was a baby. I met up with my Uncles, Aunties, Brothers, Sisters. Re-connecting with my family has been one of the most significant moments in my life.
I looked at myself, my life a little differently, my scribbles, my drawings were more meaningful. My first painting I’d really connected with was one I had done specifically for my Nanna Mac.
After that trip, I caught the train back to North Bondi, quit my job and quit the modeling world. I entered myself into an exhibition art fair, painted my ass off for three months and sold every single piece. Whoo!
I have recognition most importantly from Family and now I can pay my rent through doing something that is so intrinsically part of who I am and so worth doing! I have started painting full time. It is still such an extreme journey, I'm so proud of myself and of my faith in my belonging.

Can you tell us about your artworks?

I don’t have a plan when I start panting unless it's a commission,  Usually I just dive in and they turn themselves into something. They are a way for me to connect, it's my belonging and my journey  .. I was once asked if I could describe my paintings to the visually impaired what would I say .. I think that it looks like movement but feels still.. that still resonates with me.

Can you tell us about your favourite dreaming that you paint?

I have a Painting named ‘Ngudjung Yugarang - Mother’s Heartbeat’. This is a special piece very close to my heart. I remember I had my set paintings for my first exhibition with 4 weeks to go and I had decided to paint a 1.5 X 2 metre painting which was the first ‘Mothers Heartbeat'. I stayed up almost every night for 4 weeks and painted like crazy and I’m so happy that I did. I created her and I fell in love with her and so have a lot of other people. She has a really beautiful feeling when you get to see her in person. Once I had finished I had found the title in one of my father's books, the name just felt perfect.
As soon as I finished painting I also fell pregnant with my first daughter - meant to be.

When you are painting, what are you thinking of?

It can go either way.. Literally everything goes through my head… it's like I completely go through every situation I’m currently in. Or nothing at all - I can blink and it's been 3 hours (if I’m lucky) and I’ve finished half a painting.. my kids are usually running around me or at my feet wanting something every 3 minutes but if I get the time to myself I will usually blast reallllly bad (awesome) music and try to completely switch off.

How do you paint? Do you have an easel; do you have canvas on the floor or wall?

I paint on canvas either on the floor or just on any table the canvas fits on away from little grubby kiddy fingers that are constantly waiting to pounce or “help".

“When I’m not painting, you can find me…”

I have a 3 year old daughter and a 1 year old son so I’m trying to do my best with keeping up with them all day every day, then at night when they sleep I can paint if my partner can’t wrangle them for a few hours .. soo , beaches, parks, dance classes, soccer classes, farms and  can probably recite every lyric of Frozen and Moana.

“If I wasn’t an artist, I would be a…”

Honestly, probably an even more hands on mum with a cleaner house, that's a full time job in itself.

What’s your advice to others hoping to become an artist?

If I could pass anything on, it would be to go for every opportunity, even if you think you aren’t “qualified” or good enough. I think travelling and meeting new people, putting yourself out there is very important and has been a big help for me, I’m an introvert and love my anonymity. Though I surround myself with people that are so driven and passionate about what they do, it’s a constant inspiration to keep doing what I’m doing.
Don’t be so hard on yourself, you are your own worst critic and to just surrender to it. 

Video: Niah Juella exhibition