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Painting technique, Yirrkala
Title : Painting technique, Yirrkala Painting technique, Yirrkala
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Creator : Mountford, Charles P., photographer
Source : PRG 1218/34/3299
Date of creation : 1948
Format : Photograph
Dimensions : 60 x 60 mm
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
Catalogue record
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Copyright :

The Library received cultural clearance from the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, Yirrkala to display this image. Reproduction rights are owned by State Library of South Australia.
This image may be printed or saved for personal research or study. Use for any other purpose requires permission from the State Library of South Australia and Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, Yirrkala. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.

Description :

Aboriginal man from Yirrkala demonstrating the method by which a brush is held whilst bark painting.

The stringy bark used is gathered at the end of the wet season, when it is more flexible, and is easier to peel from the tree. Once removed, the bark is treated to make it more pliable, then flattened, trimmed and cured. Paint is produced from mineral pigments; the red and yellow is ochre, black is manganese and the white, clay.

The paintings of North East Arnhem land are more complex and intricate than those of western Arnhem Land, with backgrounds covered in cross hatching, bands, dots, diamonds etc. Each painting may take between two to five days to complete.

Designs, patterns and stories used by each artist form part of their cultural inheritance, and the right to paint certain designs, to learn, and divulge their meaning is restricted to the entitled individuals or clans. The cultural knowledge contained in each painting does not exist in isolation, but works in conjunction with song, dance, and oral tradition to introduce and reinforce Yolngu lore. Whilst many paintings are now produced for commercial rather than ritual purposes, they continue to perform a cultural role.

Mountford and the Expedition collected over 500 bark paintings from Arnhem Land. Many were later distributed by the Commonwealth Government to state museums and galleries. It is reported that these were "the first Aboriginal works collected in the field and accepted by Public art galleries, not only for their ethnographic significance, but also for their aesthetic qualities." (Lock-Weir, 2002)
Coverage year : 1948
Place : Yirrkala
Region : Northern Territory
Further reading :

American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, (1948). Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land, Melbourne : Melbourne University Press, 1956-1964

Berndt, Ronald M. and Phillips, E. S. (eds). The Australian Aboriginal heritage : an introduction through the arts, 2nd ed, Sydney : Australian Society for Education through the Arts in association with Ure Smith, 1978

Elkin, A. P., Berndt, Catherine and Ronald. Art in Arnhem Land, Melbourne : Cheshire, 1950

Hutcherson, Gillian. Djalkiri w nga = The land is my foundation : 50 years of Aboriginal art from Yirrkala, Northeast Arnhem Land, Nedlands, W.A. : The University of W.A. Berndt Museum of Anthropology, c1995

Lamshed, Max. 'Monty' : the biography of C.P. Mountford, Adelaide : Rigby, 1972

Lock-Weir, Tracey, Art of Arnhem Land 1940s-1970s, Adelaide : Art Gallery of South Australia, 2002

McKenzie, Maisie. Mission to Arnhem Land, Adelaide : Rigby, 1976

Morphy, Howard. Ancestral connections : art and an aboriginal system of knowledge, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1991

National Geographic Magazine, vol. 96, no. 6, 1949, pp. 745-782, 'Exploring Stone-age Arnhem Land' by Charles P. Mountford.

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