Spiral Wind


SPIRAL WIND is the title we have given to the group show of artists from Maningrida to accompany the solo exhibition of Samuel Namunjdja. The title does not refer so much to the content of the works that are rich and varied in the stories they depict, but rather as a metaphor for the explosive innovation and variation to emerge in Maningrida over the last few years. Artists include senior Kuninjku figures John Mawurndjul, Ivan Namirrki, Owen Yalandja, Timothy Walanjbirr, Kay Lindjuwanga and James Iyuna as well as younger artists who have already made their mark such as Irenie Ngalinba, Samson Bonson, Joy Garlbin, Aileena Lamanga and Elysse Cameron. Most of these artists were also featured in the critically acclaimed and commercially successful exhibition of Kuninjku art staged in London by Josh Lilley Fine Art in association with Maningrida Arts and Culture and Annandale Galleries in September 2007. Also in ?Spirit in Variation? parts one & two (catalogue available) at Annandale in late 2007 and early 2008. Magnificent works have been carefully chosen over the last year to demonstrate the continual innovation of this group of artists as well as the consolidation of their position as one of the most exciting contemporary art movements in Australia.

Following are some brief biographies and comments;

John Mawurndjul (b.1952) is a Kuninjku artist and the undisputed leader of the new ?Rarrk? movement which saw the older figurative X-ray style of painting give way to a more abstract style in Maningrida. It is Mawurndjul who made the central subject matter the raark or crosshatching itself, as a way of both telling the stories and gathering more personal emotive power in the work. Annandale Galleries are holding a major solo show of his work in May 2009 but have included a magnificent piece for this exhibition as no show featuring so many Kuninjku artists would be complete without him. His work is in all State galleries and numerous private collections as well as museums and collections around the world. In 2006, he was the first Australian artist of any colour to have a definitive retrospective in a major European museum in nearly thirty years (Tinguely Museum in Basel travelling to Hanover). He has been showing at Annandale Galleries since 1997.

Ivan Namirrki (b. 1960) is a senior Kuninjku painter and sculptor and another son of Peter Marralwanga who taught him to paint in the early 1980?s. Following the passing of his father in the late 80?s he stopped painting until his solo exhibition at Annandale galleries in 1999. Since then his work has progressed from a figurative base and he has flourished in a more abstract mode. He was invited into the prestigious Clemenger Prize at the NGV in 2006. Ivan has contributed a bark and a museum quality pole to this exhibition. His work is in most major Australian collections.

Timothy Walanjbirr (b.1969) is a Kuninjku painter and sculptor and the youngest son of Peter Marralwanga. He is best known for his extraordinarily fine raark or crosshatching and has two outstanding examples of his poles in the show. His work is in the NGV, QLD Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Australia.

Kay Lindjuwanga (b.1957) is the wife of John Mawurndjul and the daughter of Peter Marralwanga. Taught to paint by Mawurndjul, she is now a senior painter in her own right and won the best bark at the Telstra awards in 2004. There are two bark paintings in the show. Kay?s work is represented in all major Australian public collections.

James Iyuna (b.1959) is a Kuninjku artist and the younger brother of John Mawurndjul. He has a bark and a several mimih spirits sculptures in the show. His style of crosshatching, instead of dotting mimihs has been hugely influential on an entire generation of sculptors from the Maningrida area. Several mimihs, a bark and a pole are in the exhibition. His work is in most public collections. His wife Melba is also an important artist with stylistic similarities to James and also has a bark and a pole in the show.

Owen Yalandja (b.1960) a Kuninjku sculptor who specializes in Yawkyawks or female water spirit sculptures. He is the son of Crusoe Kuningbal, who invented the mimih spirit as sculpture in the mid 1960?s and is the brother of Crusoe Kurrdal. Owen is recognized as one of the most dynamic and successful artists of his generation and has had two sell out solo shows at Annandale galleries. His work was one of the centrepieces of the first Indigenous triennial at the National Gallery in 2007 and he has been included in numerous overseas exhibitions. His work is in most public collections. In 2007 he switched from predominantly black to white dotting and now works in black, ochre and white ? all of which are exhibited in the show.

Irenie Ngalinba (b.1979) is the daughter of the late Jimmy Njiminjuma and older brother of John Mawurndjul who helped teach him to paint. Irenie has seen an extraordinary upward trajectory in her career since 2004 having her first sell-out solo show in 2006 in Melbourne at William Mora Galleries and was featured in the X-Strada invitational show in 2007. For an artist so young she has exerted a great influence by teaching and encouraging her brother Seymour Wulida, her sister Aileena Lamanga and husband Elyssa Cameron. Known for her innovation there are two large barks in the show one of which indicates a new structure and both an emerging palette. Irenie is one of the rising stars of Kuninjku art.

Samson Bonson (b.1968) a Gurgonni sculptor was taught in the late 1990?s and became the prodigy of the great Crusoe Kurddal the most notable maker of mimih spirits. Innovative in his use of dots on the mimihs he also displays innovation with his white works. A work was acquired in 2007 by the British Museum. Another rising star.

Elyssa Cameron (b.1981) from the Rembarrnga clan is the husband of Irenie Ngalinba. He has come up with a unique stylistic use of colour displayed in the bark in this show similar to the one acquired by Artbank in the ?Spirit in Variation? exhibition at Annandale in late 2007.

Joy Garlbin (b.1960) a Kuninjku sculptor who, like Samson Bonson did apprenticeship under Crusoe Kurddal. She has developed her own style applying white dots to her stylistically original mimih spirits and her work was included in the ?rarrk-London? show in 2007. There are three mimih sculptures in the exhibition.

Aileena Lamanga (b.1981) is another daughter of the late Jimmy Njiminjuma and seems to be carrying on his tradition in bark painting. Her main subject is the ?wak wak crow dreaming? as is represented in this show. She was also included in ?Rarrk-London? in 2007 and has two bark paintings in the show.

As indicated above and to summarize some of the relationships, the Kuninjku clan of artists are enormously talented and the extended family that centres around Mawurndjul and his wife Kay are often blood related. Mawurndjul is married to Kay whose brothers include Ivan, Timothy and Samuel. Their father the late great Peter Marralwanga has influenced all of them. James Iyuna is Mawurndjul?s younger brother and his now deceased older brother Jimmy Njiminjuma was father to Irenie and Aileena. Irenie is married to Elyssa. Owen and Crusoe (Crusoe is not in the show but the teacher of Samson and Joy) are brothers. It is difficult to imagine a more concentrated pool of talent from one family anywhere in Australia.

JOHN BULUNBULUN is a senior Ganalbingu ceremonial leader and painter and the artists around him are a complimentary focus to the Kuninjku work in ?Spiral Wind?. Bulunbulun has had an extraordinary career dating back to 1977 and been instrumental in his influence on the art and artists from the clans to the east of Maningrida as well as the growth of the Maningrida Arts and Culture centre itself. He had his first solo exhibition at Annandale Galleries in 1997. In addition to four of the finest works in recent times by Bulunbulun, including a spectacular large painting that belongs in a museum collection, there are new works by Tommy Gondorra Steele and his daughter Fiona Jin-Maginggal Mason. They all work closely together nowadays and Apolline Kohen discusses their relationships in detail in her essay in this catalogue.

Finally I would like to thank Claire Summers of Maningrida Arts & Culture for her help and enthusiasm, Ian Munro for his unerring eye, company and advice and Apolline Kohen, past director of MAC and acting Director of the Museum and Gallery of the Northern Territory for making this exhibition possible.

? Bill Gregory, Sydney October 2008


Spiral Wind
- Samson Bonson John Bulunbulun Elyssa Cameron Joy Garblin Kay Lindjuwanga Fiona Jin-Maginggal Mason John Mawurndjul Ivan Namirrki Tommy Gondorra Steele Owen Yalandja & more
10 Mar - 28 Mar 2009

Exhibition features:

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Please note, works in previous exhibitions may no longer be available, please visit our stockroom for available works