Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu is an Australian artist of the Gumatj people of Yirrkala who is recognised for her ground-breaking reinterpretation of traditional practice. Departing from engaging with ancestral narratives, Yunupiŋu creates bark paintings and Larrakitj poles that portray personal stories or, in her later works, are without narratives, the latter of which the artist describes as 'mayilimiriw' or meaningless.Read More
Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu began painting with primarily white natural pigments on bark in 2007. Many of her early works are figurative, depicting personal events. In the painting Incident at Mutpi (2008), Yunupiŋu is injured by a water buffalo, while Hunting Stingray at Birany Birany (2008) is an episode of communal activity.
Around 2009, Yunupiŋu shifted away from the representational to create bark paintings and Larrakitj (hollow log) works featuring cross-hatched, circular, and linear marks. These works are characterised by a vertical format, compared to the landscape orientation of her earlier works. Wooden log works such as Mayilimiriw (2010) and Larrakitj (2013), in their detailed surface, also reveal the process of painting.
Yunupiŋu comes from a family of artists. Her father, Muŋgurrawuy Yunupiŋu, was a prominent cultural leader and artist, and her sisters include the painters Gulumbu and Barrupu Yunupiŋu. In a video for the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2013, Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu recalled that while her father did not teach her, she learned by watching his hands at work.
The star is another recurring motif in Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu's work, delineated as energetic bursts of white colour. It first appeared in the paintings included in My Sister's Ceremony—a solo exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2014)—following the passing of her sister Gulumbu in 2012.
In 2011, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre—an Indigenous art centre and printmaking studio in Yirrkala—organised a collaborative project by the Yunupiŋu sisters. The Seven Stars, based on the Djulpan story of seven sisters and their travels, was a collaborative piece for which Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu made the background imagery in white paint pen.
Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu has received numerous awards, including the Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award for Incident at Mutpi (1975) in 2008 and the Bark Painting Award in 2017 at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Her first solo exhibition was held at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, in 2008. the moment eternal, a major retrospective of Yunupiŋu's practice, was presented by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, in 2020.
20/20: Shared Visions, Artbank, Sydney (2020); AUSTRALIA. ANTIPODEAN STORY, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Milan (2019); The future is already here—it's just not evenly distributed, 20th Biennale of Sydney (2016); Painting. More Painting, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2016); Undisclosed: 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2012); all our relations, 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021
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