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Cornelia Tipuamantumirri

Crocodile Skin  2015


image 71 × 121cm image; sheet 80 × 121cm

Museum of Contemporary Art commission, purchased with funds provided by the MCA Foundation, 2015


About the Artwork

Cornelia Tipuamantumirri began painting in 2010 aged around 80 years of age. Within a short period of time she developed a distinctive ‘old Tiwi’ style that brings the refined dotting of the wooden painting comb (kayimwagakimi and also pwoja) into her expressionistic mesh-like compositions.

Working primarily in ochre on large-scale canvases, Tipuamantumirri’s ostensibly flat surfaces suggest a three-dimensional space and a rich tactile quality which translates seamlessly to the screenprinting medium. In Crocodile Skin, one of three prints produced by the Print Ink Studio in Melbourne, the artist has treated the plate with loose painterly marks in a deep red oxide consistent with the natural ochre palette collected on Melville Island. 

The pattern (or Jilamara) references the underbelly of the ancestral crocodile that features in Parlingari (creation times) narratives as a powerful fighter and spear-maker before his transformation into reptilian form. The chevrons or diamonds associated with the crocodile’s back are a recurrent design element in many of Tipuamantumirri’s paintings.

Cornelia Tipuamantumirri

– About the artist

Born c.1930, Pirlangimpi, Melville Island. Tiwi people. Lives and works Pirlangimpi (Garden Point), Melville Island. Country: Imalu Point, Melville Island (F) and Munupi, Melville Island (M); Skin group: Warntarringa (Sun); Dance: Jarrikalani (Turtle)

Cornelia Tipuamantumirri was born in Pirlangimpi (Garden Point), Melville Island in circa 1930. Her father’s ancestral country is Imalu Point, Melville Island and mother’s ancestral country is Munupi, Melville Island. Her skin group is Warntarringa (Sun) and her Dreaming Jarrikalani (Turtle). Tipuamantumirri lives and works at Pirlangimpi where she is a respected Tiwi elder and a member of Munupi Arts & Crafts Association.

Tipuamantumirri uses the kayimwagakimi, a traditional carved wooden painting comb with a single row of teeth. Using an ochre palette of pinks, yellows, blacks and browns, her work depicts significant aspects of Tiwi life and culture with repeated dotted lines referring to yirrinkiripwoja (body painting) and the tidal movements of the surrounding seas.

Tipuamantumirri, who began painting in 2010, is also a skilled weaver. Her solo exhibitions include Warnarringa – Jarrikalani: Sun – Turtle, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne (2014); Cornelia Tipuamantumirri – New Paintings, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne (2013); and Purunguparri (Stringy Bark Hut), Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne (2011). Recent group exhibitions include Ngawa Munupula/Ngawa Kiripapiranjuwi: New Paintings from Munupi Art on the Tiwi Islands, Outstation Gallery, Darwin (2015); Cornelia Tipuamantumirri and Delores Tipuamantumirri: New Paintings, Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney (2015); We are Tiwi: Munupi Arts from Melville Island, Artitja Fine Art, Fremantle, WA (2014); The Tiwi: Art from Jilamara & Munupi Art Centres, Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, Virginia, USA (2014); Nginingawila Munupi Jilamara: Our Paintings from Munupi, Marshall Arts, Adelaide (2013); Kirilima + Jarrikalani – Jungle Fowl + Loggerhead Turtle, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne (2012); Masterstroke, Harvison Gallery, Perth (2012); Tiwi Tradition – Munupi Artists of Melville Island, Artitja Fine Art, Fremantle, WA (2012); and Nginingawila Kurrujipini (Our Colour), Tiwi Art Network, Darwin (2011).

Tipuamantumirri’s work is held in collections throughout Australia, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; and numerous private collections.

Learn more
– Other collection works by the artist

– View also


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