Installation view, "John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new", Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, image courtesy and © the artist, photograph: Jessica Maurer.
John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new
An outstanding exhibition of indigenous art is now on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA). “John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new” is the first major survey of works by one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, master bark painter John Mawurndjul. He is celebrated for his mastery of rarrk (cross-hatching) and his depiction of djang (sacred sites), a tradition shared by generations of Kuninjku artists. Bark paintings and sculptures drawn from private and public collections across the world tell the stories of Kuninjku culture and the significant locations surrounding the artist’s home in central north Arnhem Land.
Born in 1952, Mawurndjul lives and works in Milmilngkan in western Arnhem Land and Maningrida in central north Arnhem Land. Since his first exhibition in 1980, he has become one of Australia’s most widely recognised artists. In 1989 his work was included in the ground-breaking exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre Georges Pompidou and Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris, and his works have been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Australia, America, Germany and Japan. In 2018 he received the highly prestigious Red Ochre Award at the Australia Council for the Arts, National Indigenous Art Awards, for his outstanding lifetime achievement in the arts.
The collections of the MCA and Art Gallery of South Australia form the genesis of the exhibition. Two barks—Nawarramulmul (Shooting Star Spirit) and Ngalyod (Female Rainbow Serpent) (both 1988) were the first artworks accessioned into the newly-incorporated MCA Collection in 1989; and Namanjwarre, Saltwater Crocodile (also from 1988) is a cornerstone piece from the Art Gallery of South Australia Collection, representing a watershed moment in the evolution of the artist’s aesthetic. This incredible exhibition at the MCA is not to be missed!