Djaykung (File snakes)
Mithinari Gurruwiwi was an exceptional and prolific artist from the Blue Mud Bay area of north-east Arnhem Land. Born in 1929, Gurruwiwi was taught to paint by Mawalan Marika and his works predominantly refer to the Galpu clan’s lands around Caledon Bay and Garrimala, further inland. Gurruwiwi’s works offer a seamless combination of figurative elements and abstract clan designs. His exquisite infilling techniques of delicate dots, fine lines and intricate cross-hatching, contrasted with bold areas of pure colour, enliven his works. This is especially evident in this work, one of the finest bark paintings in the Gallery’s collection. Completed when Gurruwiwi was only 30, the work depicts waterlily-covered billabongs that are home to plump file snakes, valued food sources that are just part of the riches to be found in Galpu country.
natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
280.0 x 70.0 cm (irreg.)
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Professor Harry Messel 1987
Not on display
© Estate of Mithinari Gurruwiwi. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency
Where the work was made
Shown in 7 exhibitions
Aratjara: art of the first Australians:
- Stiftung Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany 23 Apr 1993–04 Jul 1993
- Hayward Gallery, London 23 Jul 1993–10 Oct 1993
- Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark 11 Feb 1994–23 May 1994
Gamarada, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Nov 1996–16 Feb 1997
Bulada, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Aug 1997–14 Dec 1997
A material thing - Objects from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 31 Aug 1998–09 Feb 1999
Another Country, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Jul 1999–02 Apr 2000
Title Deeds: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Works from the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Jul 2000–05 Nov 2000
One sun, one moon, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Jul 2007–02 Dec 2007
Referenced in 9 publications
Jonathan Cooper (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales Bulletin, 'Yiribana', pg. 25, Sydney, May 1997-Jun 1997, 25 (colour illus.).
Jonathan Cooper (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales Bulletin, 'Yiribana Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Gallery', pg. 10-13, Sydney, Oct 1994-Nov 1994, 10 (colour illus.).
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art', pg. 208-241, Sydney, 1999, 215 (colour illus.).
Steven Miller, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, ‘Cultural capital: Key moments in the collecting of Australian Indigenous art’, pg. 29-41, Sydney, 2007, 31 (colour illus.).
Howard Morphy, Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia, 'Mithinari Gurruwiwi', pg. 54, Sydney, 2004, 54, 55 (colour illus.).
Margo Neale, Yiribana: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection, Sydney, 1994, 96, 97 (colour illus.), 137, 138. plate no. 45
Barry Pearce, Look, 'A question of balance: How it is bringing changes to the old courts and beyond', pg. 28-29, Sydney, Sep 2009, 28 (colour illus.).
Hetti Perkins and Ken Watson, A material thing - objects from the collection, Sydney, 1999.
Paul S.C. Tacon, Aratjara: art of the first Australians, 'The Power of the Image among the Past and Present Peoples of Arnhem Land', pg. 127-196, Dusseldorf, 1993, 176 (colour illus.), 337. cat.no. 48