Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi - Exhibiting Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art

John Mawurndjul

Successful Lliving Indigenous Australian Artist

b. 1952

John Mawurndjul is one of the most successful living Indigenous Australian artists, his career spans more than 30 intense and prolific years.

Born in 1952 at Mumeka in Western Arnhem Land, Mawurndjul spent his youth living a traditional life with his extended family. He began to paint on bark in the late 1970s under the guidance of his elder brother Jimmy Njiminjuma (1947-2004) and his uncle Peter Marralwanga (1917-1987).

In the early 1990s Mawurndjul established his own outstation at Milmilngkan. Living on country has enabled Mawurndjul to continue hunting on a daily basis, as well as looking after his clan estate and feeding the inspiration for his artistic quest. There is a strong sense of well being derived from this repeated engagement with imagery of his country and for him the painting also evokes a sense of spiritual connection with previous generations linked with these lands.

Mawurndjul’s works produced since the mid 2000s deal almost exclusively with abstract representations of important sites located in his clan estate.

His paintings are composed of images of particular waterholes, the sinuous links of water flowing between them, and fields of crosshatched energy emanating from these places. Sometimes there may be a bar of colour, often white, across the work that represents a particular feature of landscape such as a rocky outcrop or cliff at the site. Red hatching and the saturation of this colour make the works glow with a warm heat. Energy is also suggested by the waves of white, yellow and black that flow at even intervals across the field of red.

Mawurndjul’s compositions reflect and celebrate the mythological power of his land.

He is Married to Kay Lindjuwanga, father of artist Anna Wurrkidj, Josephine Wurrkidj and Semeria Wurrkidj.

John Mawurndjul’s contribution to contemporary Australian art has been celebrated on many occasions over the last ten years. Key artistic achievements include his participation in the 12th Sydney Biennale in 2000, winning the Clemenger Contemporary Art prize in 2003, being the leading contemporary Kuninjku artist in the Crossing Country exhibition held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2004, participating in the major Musée du Quai Branly public art commission in 2006 and winning the Melbourne Art Foundation Artist Award in 2009.

It is perhaps his involvement in overseas projects that also set Mawurndjul apart from other contemporary Indigenous Australian artists. His work was first featured overseas in the landmark exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris in 1989. Since then, his work has travelled the world and has been collected by many key cultural institutions.


ACGA - Australian Commercial Galleries Association