Artist

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Djerrkngu Yunupingu

Djerrkngu Yunupingu

Djerrkŋu Yunupiŋu (also known as Eunice) is a highly respected Yolŋu elder and multi-disciplinary artist based in Yirrkala in the Northern Territory. Yunupiŋu was born in 1954 between Elcho Island and Yirrkala on Inglis Island, the daughter of Gumatj patriarch and activist Muŋgurrawuy Yunupiŋu, the master of the diamond miny’tji (sacred design) that signifies gurtha (Ancestral fire). As a child she was educated and inspired by Christian missionaries at Yirrkala; an influence that later led Yunupiŋu to become an important Church Leader and spiritual inspiration within her own community.

Yunupiŋu comes from an established family of artists: her sisters Gaymala, Gulumbu, Barrupu and Ms N Yunupiŋu are all at the forefront of contemporary art practice. A gifted fibrework artist for much of her life Yunupiŋu began to paint in 2019, inspired by the story of her conception as a spiritual mermaid. From this moment she was immediately embraced by the art world as a significant and important talent.

Yunupiŋu’s work stems from a memory she has from a time before she wasborn, when the artist’s spirit visited her father in the form of a mermaid, signalling her conception. Yunupiŋu describes this encounter:

“One day, my dad sees the tail of the mermaid and thinks he has seen a fish, so he walks closer and closer and closer and silently puts the woomera into the spear ready to throw. He throws the spear at the mermaid, but she jumps into the water…(Later, when) he gets home and lies down and falls into a deep sleep…In his dream he sees the mermaid and realises it was no ordinary fish. It was me. I was telling him in the dream "That was me dad, don’t spear me. Bapa … It is I, it was not a fish’'.

 

Upon waking, Yunupingu’s mother confirmed with her husband that she is pregnant and they understand that the mermaid had been the spirit of their unborn daughter. In 2019, Yunupingu began to paint her visions of mermaids which were connected to her spiritual conception. From this moment she was almost immediately embraced by the art world as a major talent.

In 2020, Alcaston Gallery presented work by Yunupingu in Sydney Contemporary Presents 2020.

In 2021, Yunupingu presented new paintings on bark and timber board at Alcaston Gallery in her first-ever solo exhibition, 'I am a Mermaid'. She was also announced as a finalist of the 38th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) and for the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales with a work titled 'Me and my sisters', becoming the first artist working on bark to be awarded finalist in the prize’s history.

 

Yunupiŋu was also featured at the Art Gallery of South Australia’s 2021 Tarnanthi, Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art in Adelaide, South Australia, and in 'Bark Ladies' at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) International in Melbourne, a landmark exhibition celebrating the NGV’s extraordinary collection of bark paintings and larrakitj by women artists working out of the Yolngu-run art centre, Buku Larrngay Mulka Centre (Buku). A complimentary children’s exhibition, 'The Gecko and the Mermaid' presented by NGV in parallel to Bark Ladies, focused on the art and stories of Yunupiŋu and her sister, award-winning artist Ms N Yunupiŋu

© The Artist, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne 2021

 

For an extended CV, please contact Alcaston Gallery at art@alcastongallery.com.au

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