Why John Mawurndjul’s barks are so contemporary

A major survey exhibition tracks a 40 year career, and looks at how an artist has changed the perception of bark painting nationally and internationally.
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Installation view of lorrkkon (log coffins) in the exhibition John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new (2018) at Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Photo: ArtsHub.

Bark painting is usually perceived as a traditional art form, one with origins over 65,000 years old. It is probably not what you expect to find visiting one of Australia’s most cutting edge contemporary art museums. But the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) has just unveiled a major survey of John Mawurndjul’s work that situates bark painting at the very heart of contemporary art practice.

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Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina