We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.





John Mawurndjul


1952 –

Language group: Kuninjku, Arnhem region

Artist profile

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Milmilngkan Western Arnhem Land Northern Territory Australia
    Cultural origin
    Kununjku/Arnhem region
    Media category
    Bark painting
    Materials used
    natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
    215.5 x 81.0 cm (irreg.)
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Purchased 2002
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © John Mawurndjul, Maningrida Arts and Culture/Copyright Agency

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    John Mawurndjul

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    John Mawurndjul's painting 'Mardayin' 2001 is an outstanding example of the most recent development in his style. During his painting career the artist has gradually moved from depicting familiar representations of such spiritual entities as Ngalyod the rainbow serpent and the mermaid-like female spirits or Yawk Yawks, to dazzling abstract patterning that completely covers the bark. These 'abstract' bark paintings represent body painting for the Mardayin ceremonies and relate to sites near his homeland at Mumeka. There is also a connection with the dazzling optical effects associated with the skin of the rainbow serpent when seen by people.

    This work by Mawurndjul concerns a secret patri-moiety ceremony called Mardayin. The painting refers to Kakodbebuldi, an outstation in the Dangkorlo clan estate in the Mann River region, that is also a Mardayin ceremony performance site. The cross-hatching or raark refers to the ceremonial designs painted onto the participant's bodies as well as to Mawurndjul's role as a ceremonial clan leader. It also refers to the ceremony itself and its sand sculpture decorated with two Mardayin poles (the two red dots in the upper half of the painting). The black line represents the pole and a watercourse flowing through the artist's clan country. (Information provided by Murray Garde and Christiane Keller, Maningrida Arts and Culture).

    Mawurndjul is arguably the finest bark painter working at the moment. He is particularly noted for his fine rarrk and the distinctive patterning that is displayed in the painting 'Untitled' 2000. Mawurndjul was tutored by his brother Jimmy Njiminjuma (b.1945) and uncle, Peter (Djakku) Marralwanga (c.1916-1987), both superb artists.

    John Mawurndjul has had solo exhibitions at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi in Melbourne since 1991. He regularly shows at Annandale Galleries in Sydney and his work is in many public and private collections in Australia and overseas. Mawurndjul has won several prizes including the 1999 Telstra Bark Painting Award at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award held by the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory.

    © Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2002

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 5 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 3 publications

Other works by John Mawurndjul

See all 26 works