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: I am the old and the new presents the masterful fusion of traditional and contemporary art from the sedge-grass brush of one of Australia’s greatest living artists. John Mawurndjul has been celebrated internationally for his groundbreaking approach to bark painting and for the dazzling radiance of his meticulously painted rarrk (cross-hatching).

This first major Australian survey of his innovative work assembles more than 160 paintings and sculptures from Australian and overseas collections, made in a prolific creative career that spans four decades and deep ancestral time. The artist himself has led the selection of the works in a collaboration with the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. 

Presented bilingually in Kuninjku and English, the exhibition illuminates Kuninjku culture and the dynamic connections between land and ancestral power in Mawurndjul’s home in western Arnhem Land. It also reveals the mastery of an artist who vividly provides a narrative thread linking the past to the present and beyond. John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new is rightly described by curator-writer Hetti Perkins as ‘a self-portrait … the embodiment of the contemporary spirit of an old soul’. 

Visit the exhibition guide - a dedicated website with artist biography, Kuninjku glossary, 160-plus artworks and more. 

The exhibition has been developed and co-presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the Art Gallery of South Australia, in association with Maningrida Arts & Culture. It is presented as part of TARNANTHI in partnership with BHP and with the support of the Government of South Australia.

John Mawurndjul, Kuninjku people, Northern Territory, born 1952, Kubukkan near Marrkolidjban, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Ngalyod, 2012, earth pigments on Stringybark (Eucalyptus tetrodonta), 182.5 x 76.5 x 10 cm; purchased with funds provided by the MCA Foundation, 2015, Museum of Contemporary Art, © John Mawurndjul/Licensed by Copyright Agency, 2018, photo: Jessica Maurer.