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May 2020

1942 - 2020
Galpu and Djapu Clans

Vale Malu Gurruwiwi – Custodian of the Banumbirr

It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of Malu Gurruwiwi, custodian of the Banumbirr - Morning Star ceremony.
Malu was a passionate advocate for the maintenance of Yolngu culture, his determination to share the Banumbirr with the outside world saw Malu travel the world as a dancer, as an eloquent orator and as an artist.

Malu Gurruwiwi, was born in 1942 on Millingimbi island, eastern Arnhem land. Not long after Malu was born his family were moved to the Methodist Mission on Galiwing’ku (Elcho Island) to reduce the risk of casualties from Japanese bombing attacks targeting the Airforce based on Millingimbi.

Malu’s father, Gapuka was one of the last surviving custodians of the Banumbirr ceremony; the Banumbirr revolves around the very bright morning star, Venus, which rises in the east just before dawn, heralding the daylight.

It was very important to my father that I know the story of Banumbirr. He was the last from all the clans who knew the stories so he was custodian of the Banumbirr pole. He taught me that Banumbirr was the brightest star in the sky. It rose in the east, crossed each clan’s country and set in the west, just before the dawn. He taught me that it symbolized the cycle of life and the metamorphosis that occurs within it.

When Malu was a young boy in the 1950s Gapuka and the Galpu clan leaders could no longer tolerate the erosion of their culture due to Missionary interference and decided to recreate ceremony so that it could be performed and shared with the outside world. This meant the formal eradication of hair, blood, and bone from the Banumbirr ceremony, which pivoted around ornate feathered head dresses, armbands, and a sacred woven dilly bag, representing the resting place of the Morning Star at night. The morning star pole re-emerged as a sapling stripped of its bark, painted in clan designs in earth pigments, fixed with long bush string talons on which clusters of iridescent feathers from lorikeets, brolgas, black cockatoos and budgerigars hang.

Malu was aware of the two colliding cultures in his life, he managed to reconcile his cultural obligations with his Christian faith and became a leader in the church on Galiwing’ku. Malu travelled extensively throughout the world, to Israel to bear witness to his Christian beliefs, and Canada where he shared the Banumbirr alongside Canadian First Nation's own Morning Star ceremony.

I was confused. At the mission I went to church and learned how Jesus was our saviour. I listened to the sermon and heard them say:
“So we are even more confident of the message proclaimed by the prophets. You will do well to pay attention to it because it is like a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the light of the Morning Star shines in your heart.”
I knew from that moment on my Yolngu faith must be true. The Banumbirr I knew was also spoken of in the bible. It was a great realisation in my life. I went forwards with great confidence knowing my faith in my culture had been restored.

During the last twenty years of his career Malu staged almost annual exhibitions with Vivien Anderson Gallery including solo exhibitions and collaborations alongside his family, with Jean Baptiste from Tiwi Island, and Djirrirra Wunungmurra from Yirrkala in eastern Arnhem Land. Malu was included in numerous curated institutional exhibitions, a highlight being the dominance of his extraordinary installation of Banumbirr in Lucent at the Queensland Art Gallery in 2016. Malu was also rewarded with several honours: he was the recipient of the 2008 Kate Challis RAKA Award, was a finalist in the inaugural $50,000 Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and was proclaimed the inaugural Monash University Indigenous Elder.

In 2010 it was all in Malu’s stride that he would travel from Galiwing’ku to Santa Fe in New Mexico to exhibit in Australian Contemporary Indigenous Art Now, presented in association with Vivien Anderson Gallery and Chiaroscuro Gallery, before flying on to London for his solo exhibition at Rebecca Hossack Gallery.
In 2011 Malu won the Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award at the 28th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards for his presentation of two supersized Banumbirr representing husband and wife.
In 2015, Gali received national news coverage when he travelled 3000 kilometers to perform the traditional Lunggurrma dance with his granddaughter Sasha at her year 10 graduation at Worowa College in Healsville, Victoria.

Later in his career Malu would expand his repertoire to create families of Banumbirr; he would say they travelled to him from across the sea, into his arms and away again to be shared with the world.

Banumbirr by Malu can be found in the collections of prestigious institutions and private collections across the world including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra ACT, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne VIC, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney NSW, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney NSW, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin NT, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne VIC, Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney NSW, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, USA, and the Arnaud Serval Collection, Paris France.

Malu was a charismatic man, with the comportment of a dancer and a penchant for rock star attire, he rarely went unnoticed wherever he went. He enjoyed the wonder his forests of Banumbirr inspired in audiences around the world, it warmed him to know he was actively bringing his culture to the world.

Perhaps these are the most fitting final words:
I make Banumbirr poles without the bone or hair for balandas so that they may learn about us and be respectful of our culture. I openly and confidently share my story straight from the heart.

Malu is survived by his wife Jane Garatju, sons Paul Buwang Buwang and Trevor Bararra Gurruwiwi, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.
Malu has been part of the fabric of Vivien Anderson Gallery since 2007. Jane Garratju and Malu adopted Vivien in 2010.


May 2020

Tell me about the artist

Teresa Baker is celebrated for her dynamic compositions depicting the epic travails of Malilu, the artist’s heroine ancestor.

Born in 1977 in Alice Springs hospital, her mother, artist Kay Baker, is a Pitjantjara woman from Kanpi, and her father a Pitjantjatjara man from Yalata. Teresa spent much of her youth with her grandfather, teacher and mentor, the late great Jimmy Baker, learning about the country and the sacred stories associated with it.

Teresa lives in Kanpi, and in addition to being a celebrated artist, works full-time at Murputja school, passing on the knowledge she learned to the next generation.

The remote community of Kanpi has a population of just over 100 people and is located in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in South Australia, about 20km south of the Northern Territory border at the base of the Mann Ranges. Part of the Murputja Homelands, the settlement of Kanpi started as an outstation for the Baker family, who moved there from other parts of the APY lands to be closer to the country of their ancestors.

In spite of the physical remoteness (which would no doubt help support the myth of the artist in isolation), Teresa lives comfortably in two equally active if juxtaposed worlds: community life surrounded by the country of her ancestors and the traditions of her Anangu spirituality which informs her works; and the contemporary Western world reliant so much - especially today - on new technology for connectivity. Indeed, we still recall Teresa arriving in Melbourne to attend the opening of her first solo exhibition at the gallery in 2015, exclaiming delightedly (as many artists do upon seeing their body of work as a whole on the gallery walls) and pulling out her iPad and taking photos to (later) upload to her social media pages. Let’s just say she was more technologically savvy than we were.

While Teresa’s paintings have qualities reminiscent of her late grandfather Jimmy Baker, she quickly found her own individual way of mark-making and use of iconography. Like her grandfather, she utilises the power of negative space in her paintings, which paired with her own self-taught understanding of nuance and the use of colour, creates high theatre and dramatic effects.

How long has Vivien Anderson Gallery been representing Teresa Baker?

Vivien Anderson Gallery has been exhibiting the artists of Tjungu Palya, where Teresa paints, since its inception as one of the first art centres in the APY Lands in the early 2000s.

Teresa began painting in 2007, and first exhibited with Vivien Anderson Gallery in 2012 alongside her mother Kay Baker, and sister Kani Tunkin in Ara Irititja Ara Kuwaritja - Old Stories Going Forward.
Recognising Teresa as one of the most exciting in a new generation of artists, following this exhibition Vivien Anderson Gallery nominated Teresa for the Kate Challis RAKA Award at the University of Melbourne for which she was selected as a finalist in 2013, and has since introduced her work to an international audience, inviting her to participate in the gallery’s biennial exhibition Australian Contemporary Indigenous Art II in Santa Fe USA.

Her first solo exhibition with the gallery was staged in 2015, a sell out solo which saw Teresa Baker receive critical acclaim from curators for both Indigenous and mainstream institutions, and led to invitations to participate in several large contemporary curated exhibitions at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), and Monash Museum of Art (MUMA) in Melbourne, The Blake Prize, and The Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2017 - the same year Vivien Anderson Gallery staged Teresa Baker’s second solo exhibition.

Teresa Baker also has a growing international profile. Continuing her jetsetting, she travelled to Switzerland in 2017 to be present at the opening of Terroir du Reve at the Fondation Pierre Arnaud, Switzerland, curated by renowned European based indigenous specialist art curator, Georges Petitjean. It was the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of privately held indigenous Australian contemporary art ever staged in Europe, in which Teresa was represented with a stunning collaborative work over 3 metres long. In 2018, Teresa travelled to the USA to represent APY Land artists at the prestigious Menil Foundation opening of Mapi Wiya (Your Map’s not Needed), sponsored by Fondation Opale and significant arts patron, Berengere Primat.

Vivien Anderson Gallery held Teresa’s most recent solo exhibition in October 2019.

Why is Teresa Baker important?

Teresa has progressively developed and refined a distinctive vocabulary of explosive motifs to depict the journey of Malilu, her pre-eminent female spirit ancestor, the essential feminist known for her strength, resilience and independence.

The emphasis of her paintings is how the feminine protagonist Malilu plays out the epic conflicts that she encounters between the forces of spirit world, the natural environment and those of human behaviour. It is these qualities that Teresa channels in both the subject and the production of her works, instilling them with a powerful presence. Her aesthetic sensibility, dynamic and mechanistic compositions, enhanced by her trademark fiery palette combine to place her paintings firmly in the contemporary sphere.

Her paintings are strong. They are potent. They pulsate with the force of Malilunya.

Image: Minyma Malilunya 2019, synthetic polymer paint on linen, 122.0 x 198.0 cm


May 2020


Tell me about the artist

Born in 1978, Naomi Hobson is a multi disciplinary artist who lives on the banks of the riverbeds in Coen in far north Queensland, where her grandparents were born.

Coen is a remote community of some 300 people located in the centre of Cape York Peninsula, at the bottom of the McIlwraith Ranges (part of the Great Dividing Range), approximately 200 km south west of the community of Lockhart and 270 km south east of Aurukun. Surrounded by the east coast rainforest and open wooded country, with many river systems that snake down to the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef, Coen is home to the Kaantju, Umpila, LamaLama, Ayapathu, Wik, Mungkan and Olkola people.

Naomi’s residence is an old tin shed that was once her village church. Her continued inspiration is the vast traditional lands of her ancestors which surround the town, and her Kaantju/Umpila culture.

Coen is my home. My family and country mean everything to me.

Through her art, Naomi continues her family tradition of political and social engagement. Her colourful abstract compositions act as a link between her own individuality and her shared family identity. Every brushstroke expresses the inherent interconnectedness of culture and country, yet this specific link to place is brought about through a keen sense of her own individuality. This connection to place and the past is reflected even in where Naomi chooses to paint.

I paint in my own personal space where I feel most comfortable including my back veranda, in the dry river beds, on the banks of my childhood fishing places as well as at the camp sites that my families have lived and spent time for thousands of years. I will take time to look at the miniature things, the tiny little things that nature hides.

Naomi Hobson works across diverse media including painting, photography and ceramics.

How long has Vivien Anderson Gallery been representing Naomi Hobson?

While Naomi Hobson is quick to point out she has been exploring her creativity since her teenage years, she committed to her practice as an artist in 2007 and was included in her first group exhibition in 2008. Naomi held her first solo exhibition in 2013, and has been included in numerous exhibitions and awards since then, including the Gold Coast Art Prize, the Telstra NATSIAAs and the Alice Prize of which she was announced the winner in its 39th iteration in 2016.

Vivien Anderson Gallery has long admired Naomi’s multi-faceted and bold artworks across a range of mediums and her committed approach to her practice, and cemented our representation of Naomi after meetings at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair in July last year.

Since then, Naomi has been commissioned by the Australian Tapestry Workshop to collaborate on a tapestry for the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, after her nomination by the gallery. Her painting on which the tapestry is based, The Royal Harvest, is a riot of colour and movement, capturing the energy, joy, abundance and excitement of trading between the two cultures, and is an expression of the vibrant relationship that has blossomed and enriched community life today.
Earlier this year, her photography was acquired by the Sir Elton John collection in London.

We have been delighted to present Naomi’s works to new audiences, and exhibit her paintings and photography at the gallery since late last year including in the current The Armchair Exhibition. We look forward to introducing her new paintings to you when we stage her solo exhibition later this year.

Why is Naomi Hobson important?

There have been many formative and important art movements from Cape York in Queensland however Naomi Hobson is one of the few contemporary artists to hail from Coen. She is also one of few artists generally who is acclaimed in each medium she tackles – ceramic, photography and paint.

Naomi Hobson’s clay poles are bold totems representing the strength and connection between sea, land, language, ceremony and identity from the east coast, Cape York.

Her photography reflects both contemporary life - her depictions of the social interactions of the youth of Coen in Adolescent Wonderland - and a recapturing and restaging of sacred tradition - such as the Orchid Man ceremony that inspired the series A Warrior without a Weapon, a selection of which is currently on display in The Armchair Exhibition.

And then there is her painting. Naomi’s colourful abstract compositions incorporate strong iconography, loose brushwork, imprints of found materials, interesting lines and shapes found in her back yard.

Through her paintings Naomi encourages others to “see different things, to take time to explore nature close up, and appreciate the little things in life, like the enjoyment of your own back yard or having a warm cup of tea on your front veranda. Its these moments that inspire me. I am alone and I can feel the air around me, I hear nature and I feel it. My colours are always aimed to capture whatever feelings or mood, situation I am experiencing at that time”.

It is her confidence about her place in the world and her conviction in her beliefs - her strong sense of self, place and belonging that makes her works so assured and compelling.

My aboriginality is what grounds me. Through art I get to freely express all of this. I can share my creative freedoms in a contemporary way.

My style also reflects my individuality... I want my work to tell my stories in an innovative way, I want to introduce new work, to maintain a point of difference, I am wary to re-define and not recycle.

Naomi Hobson is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Araluen Art Collection, Alice Springs Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo, Cairns Art Gallery, Cairns, Queensland, ArtBank, and Macquarie University Art Collection, Sydney amongst other national and international collections.

For further information about the artist please contact the gallery.

Image: Naomi Hobson, A Passing Moment 2020, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 130 x 160 cm


May 2020


Tell me about the artist

Baldwin Spencer judged Joe Guymala’s home of Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) in Western Arnhem Land 'the most beautiful spot that I have seen in the Territory' - something the Kunwinjku have known for millennia. The large remote town of approximately 1,200 people is situated about 60 km north east of Jabiru, across the (appropriately named) East Alligator River. The art centre - Injalak Arts - is nestled beside a billabong, the surface teeming with waterlillies and waterbirds, the water filled with the glowing red eyes of crocodiles – or kumoken and modjarrki in Joe's Kunwinjku language. In the distance is Injalak Hill, a sacred site renowned for its rock art, both educational – a menu of the smorgasbord of local fish and birds on offer - and spiritual depictions of totems and creation beings.

Born in 1969, Joe Guymala lives and works in Gunbalanya, but frequently spends time at Manmoyi, his outstation in Western Arnhem Land some 200 km away. Joe Guymala’s artworks are inspired by the paintings of his forefathers on the rock shelters of Arnhem Land - his grandfather was the renowned Namerredje (John) Guymala - as well as contemporary life. In addition to being a painter, Joe has toured nationally as a musician with the acclaimed Nabarlek Band and Mimih Band and helped to write many songs with his knowledge of traditional stories and country.

When did you first become aware of Joe Guymala’s practice?

Joe Guymala began painting with Injalak Arts just over five years ago, and we first saw his work during a collector’s trip to the art centres of Arnhem Land in 2018. Hidden in the store room at Injalak Arts, set aside for his first solo exhibition staged in Darwin later that year, his work was immediately captivating and greatly admired by all for his individualistic style. Joe Guymala works exclusively in natural ochres applied with 'Manyilk', a thin grass brush, to apply his unique rarrk (which can be viewed here), later building up a dense application of ochre to fill his subjects, creating bold, powerful and unique compositions.

Joe was selected that same year as a finalist in the 35th Telstra National and Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Awards in Darwin, where he was interviewed by curator Luke Scholes and performed beside his striking lorrkon (hollow log) in his typical rock reggae style.

Why did you choose Joe Guymala to be a feature artist in The Armchair Exhibition?

Joe Guymala is one of the most exciting artists to have emerged recently from Injalak Arts. His practice honours the traditions of his forebears, yet Guymala's work is often playful and documents his contemporary day to day life out bush.

Featured in The Armchair Exhibition, his figurative depictions of the contemporary world around him – large scale barks portraying the kurdukadji (emu) and kumoken and modjarrki (fresh water crocodiles), their bodies infilled with milky white ochre, and the lorrkon (hollow log) decorated with the lily pads and flowers of the wetlands of Western Arnhem Land - are also redolent of his celebrated grandfather Namerredje (John) Guymala. Namerredje’s paintings were selected for The Art of Aboriginal Australia, which toured North America in 1974–76 and Kunwinjku Bim at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1984.

In a similar trajectory, Joe was commissioned to produce lorrkon for inclusion in the exhibition The Inside World: Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Memorial Poles - the Debra and Dennis Scholl Collection, currently touring the USA and jointly opened by Joe Guymala at the Fralin Museum.

Joe was also awarded an Australia Council for the Arts residency at the at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville which he undertook in early 2020.

Joe Guymala is in the collections of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, the Kluge Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, University of Virginia USA and the Dennis Scholl Collection in the USA amongst other private collections in Australia and overseas. Joe Guymala is also a finalist in this year's Alice Prize at the Araluen Art Centre in Alice Springs.

If you would like any further information or individual high res images, please contact the gallery.

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