I am the old and the new is a major touring exhibition organised by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA). It includes works selected from a retrospective exhibition that spanned forty years of the artist’s creative practice. The exhibition was developed and co–presented by the MCA and Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), in association with Maningrida Arts & Culture. Over the last 20 years he has concentrated on more abstract works associated with the Mardayin ceremony, a now rarely performed sacred ceremony with clan identity and mortuary themes.
John Mawurndjul is a masterful painter whose works on bark and wood are experimental, intricate, and exceptionally beautiful. His work has always dealt with important cultural narratives. Ngalyod (the Rainbow Serpent), is an iconic subject matter that has remained a central theme in his work.
John Mawurndjul has been a major influence on contemporary Kuninjku artists and has led an exciting contemporary art movement in Australia. In 2000, his work was featured at the Sydney Biennale and in 1999, 2002 and 2016 he won the bark painting prize at the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. In 2005, Mawurndjul was honoured with a major retrospective exhibition at the Musée Jean Tinguely in Basel, Switzerland, and in 2006 he completed a large–scale commission for the new Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, France.
The Artist at Work: Dolobbo bim (Bark Painting) (detail), photographic essay by Jenni Carter, first published in Crossing Country: The Alchemy of Western Arnhem Land Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004, photograph: Jenni Carter