In many ways the intense attraction people have to the work of Nyapanyapa is a conundrum. She is a non-English speaking Australian who has spent less than a dozen days in a city over the seventy-odd years of her life. Her universe is formed by the geometry of Gurrutu. This is a staggeringly massive, wholistic system of identity and connection which informs every thought and conversation in Yolngu philosophy but which is less well-known than the tenets of Islam or Buddhism amongst mainstream Australians. But her marks resonate widely within and beyond Australia.
As a person, she never fails to make a connection. Very slight and stooped and quite deaf her beaming, generous smile and loving embrace to all comers immediately disarms. And perhaps it is the spontaneity and generosity and humility of these marks which beguiles us. It forgives us and invites us. Illusory status and high mindedness are left behind and it's okay to just be. To revel in the simplicity of our being. Our breath is our achievement. And it is enough. Not just for ourselves but for our neighbour. After so many exhibitions with her clan sister Roslyn Oxley it is noticeable that each edition contains a subtle shift. The emphasis over the last year has been on stars and subtly commemorates her status as a Yunupingu woman of the Gumatj clan and the Yirritja moiety. These stars are the spirits of her seven sisters in the constellation Djulpan, some departed and some just being.
Nyapanyapa Yunupingu (born c.1945) presented a major installation Gäna (self) in Encounters as part of Art Basel Hong Kong 2018 curated by Alexie Glass-Kantor. In that same year she was included in Sydney Contemporary. In 2016, Nyapanyapa Yunupingu was selected for the 20th Biennale of Sydney: The future is already here- it's just not evenly distributed, curated by Stephanie Rosenthal. Yunupingu was also selected for the 18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations in 2012 by curators Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster.
Yunupingu has been included in numerous group exhibitions worldwide. They include Marking the Infinite, Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum Florida International University, Miami, Florida (2017), Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona (2017) and Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane, New Orleans, USA (2016); Painting. More Painting, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Victoria (2016); The World is Not a Foreign Land, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Victoria (2014-2016), which toured to: ANU Drill Hall Gallery, ACT, Cairns Regional Gallery, QLD, Tweed River Art Gallery, NSW, Flinders University Art Gallery, SA, Latrobe Regional Gallery, VIC and Yirrkala Drawings, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2014).
Nyapanyapa Yunupingu has also won several awards. Most recently she was awarded the Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2017) and the 34th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award – Bark Painting Award, Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin (2017). In 2008, she won the 25th National Aboriginal Art Award and was also selected for the prize in 2007 and 2009.
Yunupingu's paintings are held in major public collections in Australia including National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin; Charles Darwin University, Darwin and Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland.
This is Nyapanyapa Yunupingu's eighth solo exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery
Press release courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.