Part 2: Important Aboriginal Art
27 November 2013


born 1952

natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark

161.0 x 67.0 cm

$15,000 - 18,000
Sold for $16,800 (inc. BP) in Auction 32 - 27 November 2013, Melbourne

Manigrida Arts and Culture, Northern Territory (cat. 1031-09)
Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Maningrida Arts and Culture.

Catalogue text

This work refers to the billabong site of Milmilngkan, one of Mawurndjul's seasonal camps where he has a house there on the edge of a small creek.

John Mawurndjul says that underneath the water of Milmilngkan lies the power of Ngalyod the Rainbow serpent, a common subject on contemporary Kuninjku bark paintings. Ngalyod is very important in Kuninjku cosmology and is associated with the creation of all sacred sites, djang, in Kuninjku clan lands. For example, ancestral stories relate how creator or ancestral beings had travelled across the country and had angered Ngalyod who swallowed them and returned to the earth to create the site. Today, Ngalyod protects these sites and its power is present in each one. Ngalyod has both powers of creation and destruction and is most strongly associated with rain, monsoon seasons and rainbows which are a manifestation of Ngalyod's power and presence. Ngalyod is associated with the destructive power of the storms and with the plenty of the wet season, being both a destroyer and a giver of life. Ngalyod's power controls the fertility of the country and the seasons.

With an artistic career spanning over thirty years John Mawurndjul is one of Australia's most successful and innovative contemporary artists. Born at Mumeka, located near the Mann River in Central Arnhem Land, an important site for the Kurulk clan, he had a very traditional upbringing and is a very competent and knowledgeable hunter and has a strong cultural interest in his heritage.

Mawurndjul was guided by his elder brother Jimmy Njiminjuma and his uncle Peter Marralwanga, and today guides and monitors the development of his children and his niece Irenie Ngalinba, the daughter of his late brother Jimmy Njiminjuma.

Originally painting mythological figures such as the Ngalyod the Rainbow serpent and totemic creatures, he has over recent years developed a more abstract style with many grid forms interlocking over the entire surface, as depicted in Mardayin Design, where the complex composition of Mawurndjul's intricate rarrk skills is evident.

Mawurndjul is constantly finding new styles to interpret his country through the use of rarrk '... same, same but different... I just can't stop thinking about my paintings ... They are very important places for us, they have meanings...'1

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