John Mawurndjul was born in 1952 near Mumeka, Mann River, Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. A member of the Kuninjku people of Western Arnhem Land, he lives and works at Milmilngkan and Maningrida, Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory.
Working within the long tradition of bark painting, Mawurndjul’s work explores themes of spirituality, mythology and life cycle. The revered Nialyod, or Rainbow Serpent, has remained a central theme in his work along with the sacred places and Mardayin ceremonies of his ancestral homeland. Mawurndjul is well known for his innovative use of very fine rarrk (crosshatching) in dazzlingly complex arrangements that dominate the surface of his paintings, depicting and encoding these sacred sites and stories.
Since his first exhibition in 1982 John Mawurndjul has become one of Australia’s most widely recognised artists. In 1989 he was included in the landmark exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre Pompidou and the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris, France and his works have been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Sydney, New York, Paris, London and Japan. In 2003 he was awarded the Clemenger Contemporary Art Award at the National Gallery of Victoria, and in 2009 received the Melbourne Art Foundation Award for the Visual Arts.
His work was the subject of a major survey at the Museum Tinguely, Basel, Switzerland in 2005. John Mawurndjul is one of eight artists whose work is now part of the largest international commission of contemporary Indigenous art from Australia at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris. His work is widely represented in the collections of major public institutions both in Australia and internationally.