Recent News at Kluge-Ruhe

Kluge-Ruhe Presents Madayin: Seven Decades of Bark Painting from Yirrkala • Thursday April 27, 2017

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection is pleased to present its newest large-scale project: Madayin. Madayin will be the first major survey of Aboriginal bark paintings ever staged outside of Australia. It presents seven decades of one of Australia’s most unique contributions to global contemporary art.

For millennia, Yolngu people around Yirrkala in northern Australia have painted their sacred clan designs on their bodies and ceremonial objects. These designs—called miny’tji—are not merely decorative: they are the sacred patterns of the ancestral land itself. Yolngu describe them as madayin: a term that encompasses both the sacred and the beautiful. With the arrival of Europeans in the mid-twentieth century, Yolngu people turned to the existing medium of painting on eucalyptus bark with ochres to express the power and beauty of their culture. The result was an outpouring of creativity that continues to this day as artists find new and innovative ways to transform their ancient clan designs into compelling contemporary statements.

Drawn from the world-class holdings of Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, Madayin will survey seven decades of artistic production at Yirrkala, from 1948 to the present, including 30 new works commissioned especially for the exhibition through the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Center at Yirrkala. The curatorial team includes both Yolngu and non-Indigenous curators. The paintings on bark will be accompanied by an extensive media component including video, audio recordings and archival photographs, developed by the Aboriginal media unit at Yirrkala, the Mulka Project.

Madayin offers a rare opportunity for American audiences to experience the grace and majesty of one of the world’s richest artistic traditions. The exhibition shows bark painting to be a dynamic tradition, brought forward by the artists of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Center at Yirrkala. Ancient mark making traditions are carried into the present through the passion and artistry of these leading artists. Here in a remote corner of Australia has emerged one of the most powerful painting movements of our time.

Want to be involved? Join us in commissioning a bark painting for this historic travelling exhibition. Contact mws2d@virginia.edu for more details.

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