Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Binygurr Wirrpanda YIRRKALA - NEXT WAVE

3 November to 3 December 2022

Yirrkala - Next Wave

Art historians talk of ‘movements and ‘schools’ which group together artists from a particular time and place for the purpose of analysis. Australian examples include the Heidelberg School and the Heide Circle. It is less common for them to think of Indigenous artists in the same way. 

We have never heard reference to the ‘Yirrkala School’ for instance. One of the key characteristics of such a movement is the dynamic between artists. How a body of artists, each following their own vision, can nevertheless be seen to have been influenced by the atmosphere surrounding them during that creation. Specifically, being part of a group of people pursuing a certain common style, philosophy or approach to art. 

It is unnecessary to argue the point whether there should be talk of a ‘Yirrkala School’ but it helps to understand that these emerging artists do not emerge from nothing.

The balance of continuity and innovation in this exhibition Next Wave is consistent with what has been happening around them throughout their formative years as artists and people. Bulthirrirri’s father Nawurapu, and aunties Djirrirra and Moyurrurra have each made strides in redefining Australian contemporary art. Binygurr only comes to notice now but has in fact been producing striking work for at least five years and belongs to the emerging Found artists who presented the exhibition ‘Murrŋiny- a story of metal from the east’ at the NCCA in Darwin last year.

The Yolŋu tool for metaphor and philosophy is the action and reactions of water. It models ideas and paradigms in Yolŋu discourse. Tides, rain, springs, dew, mist, clouds are all drawn on to discuss the abstract concepts of existence. And so this next wave of Yirrkala artists is breaking on the shore of mainstream awareness.

 Written by Will Stubbs, Co-ordinator, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.