"The old ways of doing things have changed into the new ways. The new generation does things differently. But me, I have two ways. I am the old and the new."
- John Mawurndjul
John Mawurndjul AM (b.1952, Kubukkan, western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia) was celebrated for his mastery of rarrk (fine painted cross-hatching), a tradition shared by generations of Kuninjku artists.
This exhibition of bark paintings and sculptures told the stories of Kuninjku culture and the significant locations that surrounded the artist’s home in western Arnhem Land. I am the old and the new included over 50 works which spanned forty years of John Mawurndjul's practice.
Presented bilingually in Kuninjku and English, the exhibition illuminated Kuninjku culture and the dynamic connections between land and ancestral power in Mawurndjul’s home in western Arnhem Land. It also revealed the mastery of an artist who vividly provided a narrative thread which linked the past to the present and beyond. John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new was described by curator-writer Hetti Perkins as ‘a self-portrait … the embodiment of the contemporary spirit of an old soul’.
Art Gallery of South Australia and MCA curators Nici Cumpston, Dr Lisa Slade, Natasha Bullock and Clothilde Bullen commented: ‘This artist-led exhibition has been an extraordinary journey across country and culture, with multiple voices working closely together to support and facilitate the artist’s vision. We hope that through the beauty of Mawurndjul’s art, and the extensive research that went into this exhibition, audiences will gain a deep understanding of the living history and culture of the Kuninjku people and their country’.