Barayuwa Munungurr, Ruark Lewis, Bengitj Ngurruwuthun, Jeffrey Ngurruwuthun
Opening Thursday 6 August, 3pm
Gallery 1 + Gallery 2 + Screenroom + Boxset
Rambangi / Together as equals explores the cultural poetics and politics of the homeland movement through a collaborative installation-based project involving 3 custodians of the Yarrinya site (a saltwater estate in Blue Mud Bay, north-east Arnhem Land) and a Sydney-based artist. The project stems from a history of collaboration since 2009 between Yirrkala-based artist Barayuwa Munungurr and Sydney-based artist Ruark Lewis, along with the involvement of Bengitj Ngurruwuthun and Jeffrey Ngurruwuthun. One of the key ancestral stories embedded at this site involves the ritual carving-up of the flesh and body of an ancestral whale, Mirinyungu, by Munyuku spirit men (Wurramala or Matjitji) who are brothers of Mirinyungu. The story holds significant and sacred ceremonial knowledge for Munyuku people and is manifest through myriad features of the Yarrinya coast.
All 4 artists will converge in Darwin for the realisation of an exhibition involving a wall-based installation, a traditional bark shelter, film, photography, bark painting, sculpture, and performance. The exhibition will take up NCCArt’s entire gallery spaces (Gallery 1, Gallery 2, Boxset and Screenroom) and is presented in association with Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala, and as part of the 2015 Darwin Festival program.
Barayuwa Munungurr (b. 1980; also known as Djirkurrul, Gulukurru) is an early-career artist based at Yirrkala. Barayuwa largely paints the designs of his mother Bengitj’s homeland, Yarrinya (through Munyuku clan ties), which is also the motherland of his grandfather, Wonggu Munungurr, one of Donald Thomson’s key informants in the mid-1930s. As well as painting, Barayuwa makes spears, spear-throwers, clapsticks and yidakis. He is also a talented yidaki player. After showing in Buku-Larrnggay’s Young Guns II exhibition at Annandale Galleries, Sydney in 2008, Barayuwa held his first solo exhibition at Indigenart, The Mossenson Galleries, Perth in 2009. Barayuwa was represented in the MCA’s Primavera exhibition in 2014.
Bengitj Ngurruwuthun (b. 1954) is an artist, educator and linguist. She is the mother of Barayuwa, and sister of Dula and Gambali Ngurruwuthun, the great ritual specialists of the region during the 1970s through to the turn of last century. As an artist, Bengitj makes paintings and sculptures (including larrakitj/hollow log coffins) which usually relate to Yarrinya. Bengitj has played a central role in Barayuwa’s ongoing collaboration with Ruark, as a senior cultural adviser and in providing English translations of the Yolngu concepts and subjects underpinning Barayuwa’s art.
Jeffrey Ngurruwuthun (b. 1978) is Barayuwa’s cousin, and fellow custodian of Yarrinya and surrounding Munyuku clan country through his role as a songman. Jeffrey has performed with Barayuwa and Bengitj at several exhibition openings including for the 2014 Primavera exhibition at the MCA, Sydney and previously in Sydney at the Australian Museum, Cross Art Projects and Macquarie University Gallery.
Ruark Lewis (b. 1960) is a Sydney-based visual artist and writer. He works in a wide range of media such as painting, drawing, installation, artists-books, performance, public art, theatre and audio-video works. A graduate of the Sydney College of Arts, Lewis’s first professional position was Curator of poetry readings at the Art Gallery of NSW between 1984 and 1988; his first solo exhibitions (in Sydney) were transcriptions of sound and music, titled Transcription Drawings. Collaboration has played a central role in Lewis’s multidisciplinary practice, and has seen him work with Paul Carter, Rik Rue, Amanda Stewart, and Jonathan Jones (among others) who first introduced Lewis to Barayuwa in 2009. Lewis was the subject of a two-part survey exhibition at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre and Macquarie University Gallery in 2012/13, which forms the basis of his forthcoming monograph Thoughtlines.
‘… this is the contemporary challenge of seeing through moments of clarity while holding with frail hope the complex experience of being human …’
Of Beauty and Sadness brings together three strands of practice from NSW-based painter Michael Galovic. The first strand represents Galovic’s practice as an icon painter in the Christian tradition. This is the discipline that he is best known for and for which he has dedicated much of his practice since graduating from the Belgrade Academy of Arts, Yugoslavia, in 1974. As an icon painter Galovic is particularly interested in the Crucifixion and Stabat Mater (lit. ‘the Mother was standing’ [Latin], referring to the Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Cross).
Galovic’s second strand of practice is what he calls his ‘contemporary religious’ works. These paintings are strongly informed by the icon tradition but without adhering to all of its strict visual codes, allowing the artist to explore themes such as the Crucifixion more freely and to draw on wider influences including Paul Gaugin’s ‘The Yellow Christ’.
Galovic’s third strand of practice is his ‘contemporary non-religious works’ which embrace a range of mythological subjects and which arguably include his depictions of Uluru in Central Australia. Given Uluru’s sacred status in terms of Aboriginal spirituality, this subject may also be considered as ‘contemporary religious’ works.
After extensive travels around the world, Galovic settled in Australia in 1990. His work as an icon painter appears in hundreds of churches and religious institutions throughout Australia and overseas. He has held solo exhibitions around the country and the world, and he is a four-time finalist in the annual Blake Prize for Religious Art. Of Beauty and Sadness is his first exhibition in Darwin.
Above quote from Dr Rod Pattenden, ‘Dark Light: The Art of Michael Galovic’, in The Son of Man: Traditional icons and contemporary religious artwork by Michael Galovic’, 2014, p. 4.
Showing in NCCA's Boxset Tin Lids is an assemblage of embossed and blue/indigo-painted tea canister lids which were given to the artist by a friend. The lids come from London as does the artist whose grandparents hail from the East India Docks (Docklands) area of Central London, where products such as tea and indigo were imported. The grandparents on her other side were Cockneys from the poorer East End of London. ‘Tin Lids’ is also Cockney slang for ‘kids’ and so this work encapsulates both Dowell’s London childhood and heritage as well as her philosophy of recycling and repurposing objects for her art.
‘They [the lids] are all the same’, writes Dowell, ‘but each one is different, like my pop and his 11 siblings; my nan and her 12 siblings’. Dowell relates the repetitious patterning of numbers and letters on the lids to the work of Yayoi Kusama with the late Rosalie Gascoigne also a conscious influence in her use of resonant found objects.
Alison Dowell is a Darwin-based artist and art teacher who has extensive experience in community-based arts. She works in a range of mediums and has exhibited in a range of gallery and public art/event settings. She was the overall winner of the Rights On Show Award in 2013.