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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

John Mawurndjul

1986
Martin van der Wal

inkjet print on rag paper (sheet: 42.0 cm x 29.7 cm, image: 25.3 cm x 25.3 cm)

John Mawurndjul (b. 1952), Kuninjku bark painter and hollow-log coffinmaker, has emerged as one of the leading contemporary Australian painters over the last twenty years. Following his contribution to the Aboriginal Memorial and his win in the fifth National Aboriginal Art Award of 1988, his work featured in the international exhibitions Dreamings (1988), Magiciens de la Terre (1989), l’ete Australien (1990), Crossroads (1992), Aratjara (1993-4), Eye of the Storm (1996), In Place (Out of Time) and World of Dreamings (2000). He won the Clemenger Contemporary Art Prize in 2003, exhibited at the Jean Tinguely Museum in Switzerland in 2005 and was one of eight Australian Aboriginal artists commissioned to make a mural for the heart of Paris’s Musée de Quai Branly, which opened in 2006. Many of his early works depict Ngalyod, the rainbow serpent, with the yawkyawk, a figure somewhat like a mermaid; more recently, figures in his work have been all-but supplanted in seemingly abstract, yet potently meaningful, geometric patterns applied in dazzlingly fine, intricate crosshatching (rarrk). Mawurndjul’s work is held by all major Australian galleries including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2005
© Martin van der Wal

Artist and subject

Martin van der Wal (age 33 in 1986)

John Mawurndjul (age 34 in 1986)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Big shots

Magazine article by Djon Mundine OAM, 2017

Djon Mundine OAM brings poignant memory and context to Martin van der Wal’s 1986 portrait photographs of storied Aboriginal artists.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency