Katarra Butler Napaltjarri was born in the desert near the current location of Tjukurla community, circa 1946. She grew up in the bush and was living at a place called Muramuta, before being transported by truck to Papunya in 1966. She later returned to her traditional homelands following the establishment of Kintore, Kiwirrkura and Tjukurla communities during the early 1980s.
Katarra is the second wife of Anatjari Tjakamarra, an important member of the original group of painters who started the Central Desert painting movement in 1971. She began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in 2001, where she painted ‘stories from long time, walking in the bush’. The artist’s early work was influenced by senior artist Ningura Napurrula and featured strong monochromatic line work. With experience, and deteriorating eyesight, Katarra has become known for her vivid use of colour, and loose, frenetic brushstrokes that add a striking depth to the rockholes she paints. Katarra has a solid exhibition history, and her work hangs in the Australian Parliament House Collection.
Katarra Butler’s untitled painting depicts designs associated with the site of Tjukurla in Western Australia. During ancestral times, a group of women gathered at Tjukurla to perform the ceremonial songs and dances associated with the area. While there, the women spun hair to make ceremonial nyimparra (hair-string skirts), before travelling towards Kintore. As they travelled, the women gathered large quantities of the edible fruit known as pura or pintalypa (bush tomato) from the Solanum chippendalei shrub. The women also collected mangata (quandong) from the small tree Santalum acuminatum, and kampurarrpa or bush raisins from the shrub Solanum centrale. The various bush foods foraged by the women are represented by the numerous small circles in this painting.
Katarra’s work is characterised by her striking use of colour and loose, fluid brush strokes. The artist’s bold use of fiery tones and sherbet pastels is tempered by the black underpainting in this work, her energetic linework evoking the rhythmic movement of bush foods foraged by many hands.