Acclaimed for her extraordinary gift of mark-making and storytelling, Yunupingu is one of the most celebrated and influential Aboriginal Australian artists. Her art practice remains independent of bark painting traditions that she inherited from the Yirrkala region/Yolgnu people of Arnhem Land where she lives. Her figurative and abstract works unleash a unique set of personal narrative paintings revolving around her own experiences.
Nyapanyapa is in tune with the little things. The real. The actual. She sees clearly the insignificant. She dwells in a world of insignificance. She sustains herself from it. She is herself ‘insignificant’.
As a Yolngu artist who paints birrka’mirri, or anything paintings, rather than declaiming Yolngu Law through sacred design. As a tiny old woman who is basically deaf. As the little one with a quiet and gentle personality in a family of superhuman, loud overachievers. As the childless 13th wife of elder statesman Djiriny, who had 14 wives but only 11 children. As a Yolngu woman who doesn’t speak English in a world where all resources have slowly accreted to those that do, and who insist that all negotiations take place in that language.
Nyapanyapa’s sisters are amongst the brightest, strongest, loudest, biggest and best people I have ever met. Two of her brothers, of course, have been named Australians of the Year. She is never the one to step forward. In this family of leaders, she has always followed.
In a sense, a weird but accurate way to see a work from Nyapanyapa is as congealed humility. Or congealed patience. Or even congealed timelessness.
This is the mark made by a being who exists in a dimension unpierced by the arrow of time. We respond to it because we too exist in that same dimension although our programming denies it. This is the reality of the little things that exist without calculation or cynicism. The little things that just are.
—Will Stubbs, 2021
Nyapanyapa Yunupingu lives and works in Yirrkala, near Nhulunbuy in north-east Arnhem Land, and is a Yolngu woman with a rich artistic genealogy, including musicians Mandawuy Yunupingu of Yothu Yindi and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, and the Gumatj patriarch and artist Munggurrawuy Yunupingu. Yunupingu’s art practice remains independent of bark painting traditions of the Yirrkala region/ Yolngu people of Arnhem Land. Yunupingu’s work is valued for the spontaneity and texture of her draughtsmanship. Her figurative and abstract works unleash a unique set of personal narratives revolving around her own experiences. She also employs unconventional materials such as texta-pen on clear acetate sheet, recycled paper and board during the dry season when the supply of bark runs low. While the impression is recognisably Yunupingu, the finish and texture create a fascinating reconfiguration of her distinct visual language.
Yunupingu has been exhibiting in Australia and overseas since 2007. Notable exhibitions include the moment eternal: Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Museum of Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), Darwin, 2020; Australia: Antipodean Story, Padiglione D'Arte Contemporanea (PAC), Milan, 2019; and an installation of bark and larrakitj paintings titled Gäna (self) in the Encounters sector, curated by Alexie Glass-Kantor, at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2018. Yunupingu was a finalist in the 2017 Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. In the same year she won the 2017 Telstra NATSIAA Bark Painting Award. In 2016, The artist was selected for the 20th Biennale of Sydney: The future is already here- its just not evenly distributed, curated by Stephanie Rosenthal. Yunupingu was also selected for the 18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations in 2012 by curators Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster. In 2008, she won the 25th National Aboriginal Art Award and was also selected for the prize in 2007 and 2009. Yunupingu’s paintings are held in major public collections in Australia, including National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; and Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
NYAPANYAPA YUNUPINGU (born c.1945)
Resides Yirrkala, Australia
The Little Things, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
the moment eternal: Nyapanyapa Yunipingu, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
Ganyu, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Lawarra Maypa, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
My Sister's Ceremony, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
New Work, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Birrka', Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Nyapanyapa - In Sydney Again, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Once Upon a Time, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Nyapanyapa - Bark Paintings, Prints and Carvings, Nomad Art Productions, Darwin
Looking at Painting, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Sydney
20/20: Shared Visions, Artbank, Sydney
AUSTRALIA. ANTIPODEAN STORY, Padiglione D'Arte Contemporanea, Milan
Workshop, University of Queensland Art Museum, Queensland
Vis-ability: Artworks from the QUT Art Collection, QUT Art Museum, Queensland, Australia
Sydney Contemporary, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Encounters, Art Basel Hong Kong, curated by Alexie Glass-Kantor; 'Gana' (self) installation represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Balnhdhurr - A Lasting Impression, The University of Newcastle Gallery & Museum, Australia
Marking the Infinite, Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum Florida International University, Miami, Florida
Marking the Infinite, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona
Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
34th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin.- winner Bark Painting Award
Marking the Infinite, Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane, New Orleans, USA
Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2016, Sydney
Painting. More Painting, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Victoria
20th Biennale of Sydney:The future is already here- it's just not evenly distributed, Sydney
The World is Not a Foreign Land, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Victoria (touring to ANU Drill Hall Gallery, ACT, Cairns Regional Gallery, QLD, Tweed River Art Gallery, NSW, Flinders University Art Gallery, SA, Latrobe Regional Gallery, VIC until 2016)
Yirrkala Drawings, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
New 2013: Selected Recent Acquisitions, University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane
Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection, Charles Darwin University Art Gallery, National Library of Australia, Canberra, Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide. Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne.
18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations, curated by Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster
Undisclosed: 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Crossing Cultures:Â The Owen and Wagner Collection of Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Art, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, New Hampshire
Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards, Art Gallery of Western Australia
26th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin
The Other Thing, a survey show, Charles Darwin University, Darwin
Etched in the Sun, Prints made by Indigenous Artists in Collaboration with Basil Hall & Printers, Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University
25th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin.- winner 3D prize
24th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin
PUBLIC AND CORPORATE COLLECTIONS
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
Charles Darwin University, Darwin
Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa
Herbert Smith Freehills
Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (finalist)
Bark Painting Award, 34th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award
3D Award, 25th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award
Emma-Kate Symons, Australia's indigenous women artists set to make a splash in major U.S, 25 July, New York Times, 2017
Jeremy Eccles, Natsiaas 2017 at News Aboriginal Art Directory, 11 August, 2017
William Spring, `Marching Across North America, New Museum Tour Miami's Community News', Miami Community Newspaper, January 24 2017
Katie Lavers, OUR land people stories, ArtsHub Australia, 19 June 2016
John D'Addario, Infinite Possibility, Australian Aboriginal women's art reaches across the miles, The Advocate, 19 October, 2016
John Saxby, Drawn from within, Look Magazine, Art Gallery Society of New South Wales, July 2016, pp.24-26
20th Biennale of Sydney, The Guide, Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, pp.150-151
Una Rey, Buku Larrnggay-Mulka, Art Collector, Issue 72, Apr - Jun 2015
Elli Walsh, Selected Exhibition - Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, ARTAND Australia, January 27 2015
Liza Power, Nyapanyapa Yunupingu: Following the Pulse of the Continent, Vault Art, Issue 9, April 2015, 74-77
Elle Freak, Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Articulate, April 2015 pp.34-35
Nicholas Forrest, SHOWS THAT MATTER: Nyapanyapa Yunupingu at Roslyn Oxley9, Blouin ArtInfo, 29 January 2014
Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster,18th Biennale of Sydney: All our relations, (Sydney: Biennale of Sydney, 2012) pp 202
Prue Gibson, Nyapanyapa, Art Monthly 251, July 2012, pp.5-7
John Mcdonald, Its All Relative, SMH, July 7 2012
Quentin Sprague, Thou shall not bear false witness against us no more': 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial, Art and Australia, 50:1, 2012, pp36-38
Nicholas Rothwell, Smoke and Flame, The Weekend Australian: Review, 24-25 November, 2012, pp.6-7
Timothy Morrell, Painting with Light, Australian Art Collector No 58 (October-December 2011) pp136-143
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