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Ginger Riley at the Limmen River, Northern Territory, 1992 (printed 2013)

Helga Leunig

inkjet print (sheet: 42.0 cm x 29.7 cm, image: 38.0 cm x 25.5 cm)

Ginger Riley Munduwalawala (c. 1937-2002), stockman and artist, was born in south-eastern Arnhem Land, in the coastal salt-water country of the Mara people. He grew up in the bush, attending school from time to time at the Roper River Mission (later the Ngukurr Aboriginal community). From the 1950s onwards he worked as a stockman and labourer on Nutwood Downs Station and elsewhere in the Northern Territory. In the late 1970s, he moved back to the Gulf country and to Ngukurr. He began to paint in about 1986, quickly establishing a distinctive style of large-scale landscape painting in brilliant colour. In 1992, Riley won The Alice Prize and produced a series of works for the new Australian Embassy in Beijing. The following year he won the First National Heritage Commission Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. After visiting London for the Aratjara: Art of the First Australians exhibition, he began to sign his paintings, following the example of European artists whose work he had seen. In 1994 his paintings were included in Tyerrabarrbowaryaou II at the Havana Biennale. He was awarded an Australia Council Fellowship for 1997-1998 and a major retrospective of his work was held at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1997. In 1999, he admitted that while intoxicated, he had signed many paintings that were not his own; he stated that confessing to his misdemeanour was a great relief. He lived to see the Federal Court decision in mid-2000 that substantial native title rights existed on his traditional lands around the Roper, Cox and Limmen Bight Rivers near the Gulf of Carpentaria. However, in 2002 the ‘boss of colour’ succumbed to cancer.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Helga Leunig 2013

Accession number: 2013.72

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Helga Leunig

Ginger Riley (age 55 in 1992)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

Helga Leunig (4 portraits)

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