John Mawurndjul (arguably Australia's greatest living bark painter - honoured
by a major survey of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney,
as their major contribution to the Olympics Games Official Art Program).
Other Spellings / Names: Mawandjul, Mowandjul, Mowundjal, Mawundjurl, Mawurndjurl
Region: Maningrida, Central Arnhem Land
Language Bloc: Bininj kunwok
Language: Eastern Kunwinjku
Local Group (clan): Kurulk clan
Social Affiliations: Duwa moiety, Balang subsection
Bark painting, ochres on bark and arches paper, didjeridu.
Common subjects are Ngalyod (Rainbow Serpent), Namarrkon (lightning). Mother's
country - Kakodbebuldi; water and sacred objects under water. Yawkyawk. Depicts
the Mardayin ceremony and includes the billabong at Milmilngkan which is an
important Rainbow Serpent sacred site.
2003 - Winner of the Clemenger Contemporary Art Award, at the National Gallery of Victoria.
2002 - Bark Painting prize in Telstra's National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award
1999 - Bark Painting prize in Telstra's National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award
1991 - Professional Development Grant, from the Aboriginal Arts Unit of the Australia Council for the Arts.
1988 - First Prize, Barunga Festival Art Exhibition, Barunga, NT.
1988 - Rothmans Foundation Award [Best painting in a traditional media], National Aboriginal
Art Award, Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences, Darwin.
Aboriginal Art Museum, The Netherlands.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.
Musee National des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie in Paris, France.
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
Mus?du Quai Branly, Paris, France.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Maningrida Collection, Sydney.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney.
Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra.
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.
South Australian Museum, Adelaide.
Sprengel Museum in Hannover, Germany
The Holmes a Court Collection, Perth.
2007 - New Works, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne.
2005 - Rarrk the work of John Mawurndjul, Jean Tinguely Museum, Basel, Switzerland.
2004 - John Mawurndjul - new barks, Annandale Galleries, Sydney.
2002 - Kabarlekidyo to Milmilngkan - John Mawurndjul's Country, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi
1994 - Savode Gallery, Brisbane.
1993 - Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne.
1991 - Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne.
2007 - National Indigenous Art Triennial 07, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
2006 - Oceanic Art, Galerie DAD, Paris, France.
2005 - Rarrk! Flowing on from Crossing Country, Annandale Galleries, Sydney.
2004 - Exhibition of Hollow Logs, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne; Crossing Country
- the Alchemy of Western Arnhem Land Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
2003 - Mythological beings from Maningrida, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney, NSW;
2003 - Clemenger Contemporary Art Award, Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria.
2002 - The Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art
Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
1995 - Stories my Parents Sang, National Maritime Museum, Sydney.;
1995 - The Twelfth National Aboriginal Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, Darwin.
1994 - Power of the Land, Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria;
1994 - Art of the Rainbow Snake, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
1993/4, ARATJARA, Art of the First Australians, Touring: Kunstammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen,
Dusseldorf; Hayward Gallery, London; Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark.
1993 - The Tenth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the
Northern Territory, Darwin.
1992 - The Ninth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the
Northern Territory, Darwin;
1992 - Crossroads-Towards a New Reality, Aboriginal Art from
Australia, National Museums of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo.
1991 - Flash Pictures, National Gallery of Australia.;
1991 - Canvas and Bark, South Australian Museum, Adelaide.;
1991 - The Speaking Land and Sea, Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney.
1990 - l'ete Australien a' Montpellier, Musee Fabre Gallery, Montpellier, France.;
1990 - Spirit in Land, Bark Paintings from Arnhem Land, National Gallery of Victoria;
1990 - Keepers of the Secrets, Aboriginal Art from Arnhemland, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth;
1990 - Painted Ship, Painted Oceans, S. H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney.
1989 - Kunwinjku, Deutscher Gertrude Street, Melbourne.;
1989 - Magiciens de la Terre, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris;
1989 - Aboriginal Art: The Continuing Tradition, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra;
1989 - The Sixth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, Darwin.
1988 - Garry Anderson Gallery, Sydney;
1988 - Kunwinjku Artists, Darwin Performing Arts Centre Gallery and Beaufort Hotel Convention Centre,
Darwin; 1988 - Dreamings, the art of Aboriginal Australia, The Asia Society Galleries, New York.
1986 - The Art of the First Australians, Kobe City Museum, Japan.
1985 - The Second National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, Darwin;
1983 - Artists of Arnhem Land, Canberra School of Arts;
1982 - Aboriginal Art at the Top, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
Aboriginal Arts Management Association, 1990, Contemporary Aboriginal Art 1990 - from Australia
(presented by the Aboriginal Arts Committee, Australia Council and Third Eye Centre, Glasgow),
exhib. cat., Redfern, New South Wales. (C)
Caruana, W. (ed.), 1989, Windows on the Dreaming, Ellsyd Press, Sydney. (C)
Caruana, W., 1993, Aboriginal Art, Thames and Hudson, London. (C)
Chanin, E., 1990, (ed.), Contemporary Australian Painting, Craftsman House, Roseville, NSW, Australia
Crossman, S. and Barou, J-P. (eds), 1990, L'ete Australien a Montpellier: 100 Chefs d'Oevre de la Peinture
Australienne, Musee Fabre, Montpellier, France. (C)
Isaacs, J., 1984, Australia's Living Heritage, Arts of the Dreaming, Lansdowne Press, Sydney. (C)
Kohen, A. ,Garde M., In the Heart of Arnhem Land. Myth and the Making of Contemporary Aboriginal Art,
Musee de l'Hotel Dieu, France, 2001 (C).
1993, Aratjara, Art of the First Australians: Traditional and Contemporary Works by Aboriginal and Torres
StraitIslander Artists, exhib. cat. (conceived and designed by Bernard Luthi in collaboration with Gary Lee),
Dumont, Buchverlag, Koln. (C)
Martin, J-H, 1989, Magiciens de la Terre, Musee national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
McCulloch, A., & McCulloch, S., 1994, The Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd, St
Leonards, New South Wales.
O'Ferrall, M., 1990, Keepers of the Secrets, Aboriginal Art from Arnhemland in the Collection of
the Art Galleryof Western Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth. (C)
Pizzi, S (ed.), 2007, "John Mawurndjul", Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne (C).
Perkins, H. and Willsteed, T. (Eds.), Crossing Country - the Alchemy of Western Arnhem Land Art,
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004.
Ryan, J., 1990, Spirit in Land, exhib. cat., National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
Smee, S. ?Shows take snapshot of now?, The Australian, 25 November 2005
Sutton, P. (ed.), 1988, Dreamings: the Art of Aboriginal Australia, Viking, Ringwood, Victoria. (C)
Wallace, D., Desmond, M., Caruana, W., 1991, Flash Pictures, exhib. cat., National Gallery of
© Discovery Media, Documentation Pty Ltd, and the Australian
Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
John Mawurndjul was taught to paint by his father Anchor Kulunba, uncle Peter Marralwanga
and elder brother Jimmy Njiminjuma. From each of his mentors, Mawurndjul gained particular
skills that he is now passing on to his wife Kay Lindjuwanga and daughter Anna Wurrkidj.
While displaying rare ability, Mawurndjul's early works adhere to regional conventions of
rock and bark painting, primarily comprising depictions of beings such as Ngalyod (ancestral
rainbow snakes) and mimih (human-like rock-dwelling spirits).
The remarkable career and life of John Mawurndjul has been amplified over the last decade with
the steadily growing body of literature following from his prolific creative outpourings. He
was selected as the winner of the 2003 Clemenger Contemporary Art Award and more recently in
2006 was honoured with a big commission to decorate a portion of the Musee du Quai Branly in
Paris. Over his career he has so far won three major awards in the prestigious Telstra Art Awards
at the Museum and Gallery of the Northern Territory and featured in numerous important local
and international exhibitions.
Mawurndjul continues to push the boundaries of rarrk on bark. His work has moved to brighter,
cleaner, shinnier and more abstract, the visual balance of his work is more reliant on a
contemporary visual idiom rather traditional ethnographic symbols. While the surface employs a
more global view Mawurndjul continues to remind us of his Aboriginality employing bark painted
with traditional ochres and colours.
John Mawurndjul then describes the application of rarrk in the following passage:
"They took the rarrk from the Maradayin ceremony?they all do the same pattern, white background,
red hatching, internal lines of division and then red, white, black and yellow stripes. The duwa
moiety rarrk is generally finer annd the yirriddjdja moiety tends to be wider. These are not hard
and fast rules though. We do a different kind of rarrk, we duwa people to the yirriidjdja people.
I can help paint the chest of men in the appropriate style for their moiety." (Interview with John
Mawurndjul "In the Heart of Arnhem Land", Musee de L'Hotel-Dieu, 2001p.55).
Courtesy of © Discovery Media, Documentation Pty Ltd, and the Australian
Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and Bulla Bulla Arts
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