John Mawurndjul AM
Kuninjku (Eastern Kunwinjku) people
'Rainbow Serpent (Ngalyod) with female mimi spirit' 1984
© John Mawurndjul. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
Since the early 1990s John Mawurndjul has been living and working in his traditional country at Milmilngkan, an outstation near the larger settlement of Maningrida.
Mawurndjul's early paintings often contained figurative references—Ngalyod (the rainbow serpent), yawkyawk spirits, animals and ancestral beings—as well as visual references to the culturally sacred Mardayin ceremonial designs. Mardayin designs were originally painted on the bodies of young initiates to indicate their connections to their ancestral homelands, mapping their country in physical form.
As Mawurndjul's recent bark paintings and lorrikitj (hollow funeral poles) have become more refined and intricate, the presence of Mardayin designs has come to dominate his oeuvre. Still embedded within these increasingly abstracted Mardayin forms are sacred stories of law.
The visual effect of these prismatic grids is almost hypnotic and a deliberate intention of the artist to suggest the incredible ancestral power inherent in his art. The thin and delicate rarrk heralds the power of ancestral beings who inhabit Western Arnhem Land and demonstrate Mawurndjul's masterful and dynamic arrangement of rarrk.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008