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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 Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

John Mawurndjul

1986
Martin van der Wal

inkjet print on rag paper, edition 2/30 (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.

Purchased 2005
© Martin van der Wal

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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

Café and shop

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.

Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham)
Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham)
Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham)
Wainburranga (Paddy Fordham)

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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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