Important Aboriginal + Oceanic Art
24 March 2010

John Mawurndjul

born 1952

natural earth pigments and PVC on eucalyptus bark

177.0 x 72.0 cm (irregular)

$20,000 - 30,000
Sold for $24,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 13 - 24 March 2010, Melbourne

Maningrida Arts and Culture, Northern Territory (cat. 1195/06, label attached verso)
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

With an artistic career spanning over thirty years Kuninjku artist John Mawurndjul is one of Australia’s most successful and innovative contemporary artists. Originally painting mythological figures such as the Ngaloyd, (the rainbow serpent) and totemic creatures such as those shown in Frogs, 1994, also in this sale, Mawurndjul has since departed from this iconic form of representation to develop a more abstract metaphysical representation of specific sites and events. His paintings are now composed of vast expanses of rarrk (cross hatching) with many grids rendered in fine interlocking lines. This surface, beautifully executed in Mardayin Ceremony, shows the complexity of Mawurndjul’s intricate rarrk skills.

Born at Mumeka, located near the Mann River in Central Arnhem Land (an important site for the Kurulk clan), Mawurndjul’s early painting lessons were painting bodies for dance and initiation ceremonies. He had a very traditional upbringing, recalling his early involvement in ceremonial preparations as, ‘I saw my father doing the rarrk for the Mardayin ceremony and tried to do it myself with my back all double dover, I ended up being better than any of them at it. They gave me a job in the Mardayin ceremony to paint some rarrk. When they all saw me doing it they said ‘wow’, he’s got the hang of it. ‘you’ve left us behind my son’, they said to me.’1

1. rarrk: John Mawurndjul, Journey Through Time in Northern Australia, Museum Tinguely, Basel, 2005, p. 43