John Mawurndjul describes himself as a ‘chemist’,
his creative process achieved through ‘some kind
of magic’. Mawurndjul was taught to paint by his
brother, Jimmy Njiminjuma and uncle, Peter Marralwanga.
His recent bark paintings are predominantly based on
Mardayin ceremony body paint designs, where the surface
of the bark is covered in mesmorising fields of rarrk
(cross hatching). The intersecting prisms of rarrk in
these paintings are a culturally sanctioned ‘outside’
version of sacred designs. When applied to bark or the
body, the Mardayin design matrix is a visual metaphor
for, and manifestation of, ancestral power.
One of the most successful Indigenous artists in Australia
in 2003 Mawurndjul won the prestigious Clemenger Contemporary
Art Prize at the National Gallery of Victoria.