‘Old and the New’ at Bunjil

A selection of the works on display at Bunjil Place.

Bunjil Place is now presenting a survey of works by one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, master bark painter John Mawurndjul.

‘John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new’ has been developed and co- presented by the MCA and Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), in association with Maningrida Arts and Culture. This landmark touring exhibition includes over 50 works, spanning forty years of the artist’s practice.

It’s now showing in the Bunjil Place Gallery as part of an eight-stop regional tour.

John Mawurndjul AM 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.

He was the recipient of the Clemenger Contemporary Art Award in 2003, has received the Bark Painting Award at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory four times, and in 2010 was awarded an Order of Australia. 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.

In close collaboration with the MCA and Art Gallery of South Australia curatorial teams, John Mawurndjul led curatorial decisions and assisted in selecting the most significant artworks from his career. He was instrumental in determining the exhibition structure, which is grouped by places – or kunred – then animals and spirits, mimih, lorrkkon and etchings. The concept of kunred informs the artist’s practice, both in the materials used such as the bark of the tree, natural earth pigments and charcoal, and in the representation of ideas critical to an understanding of Kuninjku culture.

Language is an important component of this presentation, with bilingual texts embedded throughout the exhibition design – from the didactics and labels available in Kuninjku, to translated texts featured in the catalogue and on the website.

John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new will be showing at Bunjil Place until Sunday 17 January 2021 at the Bunjil Place Gallery. Bookings are essential – visit https://www.bunjilplace.com.au/john-mawurndjul