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John Mawurndjul

Nawarramulmul (Shooting star spirit) (1988)

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds donated by Mr and Mrs Jim Bain, 1989

ochres and synthetic polymer on bark

H 219.4 W 95 D 8.5cm

About the Artwork

John Mawurndjul’s art is concerned with themes of spirituality, ancestral landscapes and the cycle of life. Nawarramulmul (Shooting star spirit) depicts a spirit figure that appears like a star in the sky. According to Mawurndjul, “Nawarramulmul doesn’t have a social category, but it is a dangerous spirit being. It is dangerous … It might take an hour to come and shine its light. It burns brightly, shimmering like a star and then it finishes.”

Nawarramulmul (Shooting star spirit) was painted at a time of extraordinary development and innovation for the artist, when he was redefining traditional artforms and working with great fluidity, expression and scale. Mawurndjul is considered one of the most experimental artists working in Arnhem Land, whose style continues to evolve; he uses rarrk or crosshatching, a technique of painting where fine lines and areas of colour appear to glow from the surface of the bark.

Nawarramulmul (Shooting star spirit) is one of two large bark paintings by John Mawurndjul in the MCA Collection exhibited in the landmark exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre Pompidou and the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris, France in 1989. This show sought to undo the Eurocentrism of contemporary art by exhibiting artists from western and non-western backgrounds alongside one another.

It might take an hour to come and shine its light. It burns brightly, shimmering like a star and then it finishes

John Mawurndjul, 2015

John Mawurndjul

– About the artist


John Mawurndjul was born in 1952 near Mumeka, Mann River, Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. A member of the Kuninjku people of Western Arnhem Land, he lives and works at Milmilngkan and Maningrida, Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory.

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