Limmen Bight Country bears Alcaston Gallery catalogue number AK58 on the reverse and artist's name, title, date, medium and exhibition details on a National Gallery of Victoria label on the reverse of the stretcher synthetic polymer paint on cotton duck 84 x 89cm
PROVENANCE: Painted in 1989 Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne Property of a Melbourne Collector
EXHIBITED: Mother Country In Mind: The Art of Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 16 July - 22 September 1997
The mouth of the Limmen Bight River where it flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria provides the setting for the epic ancestral events that are the subject of Munduwalawala's paintings. The country belongs to his mother's clan, and consequently Munduwalawala was a jungkayi or custodian of this land, with the traditional responsibility of honouring it, and in the latter years of his life, by painting it.
The chief ancestral protagonists in these chronicles are Garimala the Taipan or Rainbow Serpent associated with the wet season and who is often depicted as two Rainbow Serpents; Bulukbun the angry fire-breathing serpent; and the King Brown snake Bandian who created sites in the region.
Munduwalawala usually depicts his major totem Ngak Ngak the Sea Eagle within his compositions as if the artist himself is a witness to the ancestral creation. The notion is reinforced by the aerial perspective of the landscape adopted by Munduwalawala. It sits between a plan view of the land (as if seen directly from above and common in traditional Aboriginal paintings), and the profile view of European art.
The landscape is dominated by the spectacular rock formation of the Four Archers which lies some fifty kilometres inland from the mouth of the river. The Four Archers are nearly omnipresent in Munduwalawala's work, as seen in these four paintings. A number of compositions are framed by a rhythmic chevron or triangular design that alludes to ritual designs painted onto the shoulders and chests of ceremonial participants.
Another recurring motif in Munduwalawala's work is the Shark Liver tree that is not a natural tree but a ritual construction. It is usually shown between two guardian snakes. The tree was created from the liver of Yulmunji, the ancestral shark that connects the artist's mother's country to that of the Djambarrpuyngu and the Dhudi-Djapu clans whose lands lie further north in Arnhem Land.
Canvas was Munduwalawala's favoured support for his paintings, although he occasionally worked on paper and on board as in Sharks Liver Tree, 1991. The rigid nature of the board support allows the paint to slip across the surface to render its finish akin to that of an oil sketch. Other paintings on boards are in the Janet Homes à Court Collection, and that of the Art Gallery of Western Australia.
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