John Mawurndjul: I Am The Old & The New

John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new (2018). © John Mwurndjul/Copyright Agency, 2022.

John Mawurndjul’s career highlights include a major personal retrospective <<rarrk>> John Mawurndjul Journey Through Time in Northern Australia at the Museum Tinguely in Basel in 2005 and John Mawurndjul: I Am the Old and the New at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney in 2018 that toured nationally. The catalogue and website for this latter exhibition provide in-depth materials about his life and art.

To coincide with our current exhibition, John Mawurndjul: Painting the Spirit, we are delighted to share John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new (2018). This documentary was shot on Country around John Mawurndjul’s home at Milmilngkan, at Maningrida Arts and Culture and a number of significant sites on the Kurulk estate. The artist discusses his prolific art practice, which he balances alongside his responsibilities as Djunkay (cultural manager) for his traditional homelands. Detailing the significance of rarrk (cross-hatching), barks, ochres and sculptural works, this video also introduces many of the topics that Mawurndjul depicts in his rarrk, including the spirit beings, ceremony and animals that inform the life of the artist.

The video was produced by the MCA digital media department, in collaboration with the artist and Dr Murray Garde.

Many of the works which appeared in the retrospective exhibitions mentioned above can be viewed in John Mawurndjul: Painting the Spirit and, in the words of Vanessa Merlino, Head of Research at D’Lan Contemporary, ‘the group of works in Painting the Spirit are markers of Mawurndjul’s creative genius and an opportunity to witness a small yet powerful set of statements on transformation. His unwavering belief to transfigure and reconceptualise the complexities of his Kuninjku culture broke new ground in art history and the presence of his work suggests the possibility of an ever-evolving spirit.’

We hope you can visit the exhibition at 40 Exhibition Street, Melbourne before it closes on 12 May and that, in the meantime, this remarkable documentary provides an enjoyable insight into this ground-breaking artist and his work.