John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new Exhibition Catalogue

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The richly illustrated 400-page book contains a comprehensive overview of John Mawurndjul’s practice by Hetti Perkins, one of Australia’s great scholars of Aboriginal art; a detailed and illustrated biographical history by writer Genevieve O’Callaghan; an interview between the artist and linguist Dr Murray Garde; and other essays.

John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new celebrates language and is punctuated with the artist’s words in Kuninjku, translated into English, describing his places of special cultural significance known as kunred, as well as the sacred places and spirits – or Djang – that resurface time and time again in his art-making. We also encounter the animals and spirit beings that populate these locations including female water spirits (yawkyawk), rainbow serpents (ngalyod) and mischievous mimih spirits. 

The places around western Arnhem Land that recur in his work include spring-fed creeks such as Milmilngkan, sandstone escarpments including Ngandarrayo and the white clay quarries of the seasonal creek called Kudjarnngal. The materials used by Mawurndjul to make his art come from these places – the stringy bark eucalypt skins that form the body of his bark paintings; the white clay, yellow and red ochres mined from sacred deposits that become paint; and the manyilk, the paint brush sedge that makes the single-strand brushes that the artist uses to make cross-hatching or rarrk.

Designed and developed by the MCA Design Studio in collaboration with the artist, the book mirrors the structure of the 2018 exhibition, John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new, by grouping more than 160 full-colour image plates grouped by place, along with rarely seen images of the artist. 

Published - 2018
Pages - 410 pages
Format: Softcover
Dimensions: 24.5 x 29cm