Issue 2
Monday, 05 April 2021
Charles Darwin University
More than 50 of master bark painter John Mawurndjul’s most celebrated artworks are showcased in the exhibition
More than 50 of master bark painter John Mawurndjul’s most celebrated artworks are showcased in the exhibition

Works by world famous Indigenous artist to feature at CDU Art Gallery

By Carl Pfeiffer

A survey of works by one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists – master bark painter John Mawurndjul AM – will feature at Charles Darwin University (CDU) Art Gallery until the end of May. 

More than 50 of Mr Mawurndjul’s most celebrated artworks have been selected for the exhibition, spanning the 40-year career of the renowned Arnhem Land artist.

Mr Mawurndjul is celebrated for his mastery of 'rarrk' (cross-hatching) and his depiction of 'djang' (a sacred site or totemic emblem), a tradition shared by generations of Kuninjku artists. 

Born in 1952, he lives and works in Milmilngkan in western Arnhem Land and Maningrida in central north Arnhem Land, where his bark paintings and sculptures tell the stories of Kuninjku culture and the significant locations surrounding his home. 

CDU Art Gallery Curator Dr Joanna Barrkman said the university’s gallery was fortunate to be the final venue on the exhibition’s national tour. 

“This is the closest venue to the artist’s homeland that the exhibition will tour,” she said. 

“Mr Mawurndjul is arguably one of Australia’s most well-known living artists and we are incredibly privileged to have this exhibition visit CDU. It will take visitors on an extraordinary journey across country and culture. 

“We hope that through the beauty of Mr Mawurndjul’s art, and the extensive research that went into this exhibition, audiences will gain a deep understanding of the living history and culture of the Kuninjku people and their country.” 

Since his first exhibition in 1980, Mr Mawurndjul has become one of Australia’s most widely recognised artists and his works have been included in exhibitions in Australia, the United States, France, Germany and Japan. 

He was instrumental in determining the exhibition’s structure, which will feature works drawn from private and public collections across the world.  

The works are grouped in a specific order, starting with places – or kunred – then animals and spirits, mimih, lorrkkon and etchings. 

The exhibition, titled: “John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new”, will run until 29 May at the CDU Art Gallery. 

The exhibition and tour has been developed and co-presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Art Gallery of South Australia in association with Maningrida Arts & Culture.