Untitled (Kangaroos) bears artist's name, date on the reverse as well as artist's name, date, dimensions and provenance on a label attached on the reverse natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark 60 x 40cm
PROVENANCE: Painted at Minjilang (Croker Island), Western Arnhem Land in 1967 J. A. Davidson Collection, Melbourne Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Sydney Property of a Melbourne collector
Yirawala was the master painter among Kuninjku artists of western Arnhem Land in the 1960s and 1970s. He drew upon his extensive cultural and ancestral knowledge to produce many paintings that appear to depict mundane scenes but that incorporate deeper levels of interpretation and a connection to ceremonial art. Ostensibly this painting depicts mimih spirit figures on a kangaroo hunt. The figure on the right is in the act of launching a barbed spear, attached to the spear thrower he holds in his left hand. The figures of the two kangaroos are depicted in minimal X-ray style to reveal the livers and hearts of the animals; a technique common in Western Arnhem Land rock art and bark painting, intended to show the important food parts of the animal.
On another level, the variations of cross-hatching or rarrk that decorate the bodies of the kangaroos, coupled with the feather tassels that project from their heads firmly places the image in the ceremonial realm. The rarrk patterns relate to body painting designs worn by participants in sacred or Mardayin rituals, who also wear feather tassels in their hair. Without further documentation to draw upon, the kangaroos are likely to represent Kandakidj, the male antilopine kangaroo associated with the Wubarr and Lorrkon ceremonies, and Kandayh the female kangaroo.
Untitled (Kangaroos), 1967, is a fine example of Yirawala's draughtsmanship. The work was collected by J.A. Davidson who visited Arnhem Land frequently during the 1960s. Davidson was renowned for the relationships he struck up with artists and he made extensive collections of the paintings and sculptures of the region.