Yirawala (1903-1976)

Maraian Ceremony, c. 1960

white pipeclay and ochre on bark 

Picasso reportedly once exclaimed “This is what I have been trying to achieve all my life!” If he had been able to encounter the full range of
Yirawala’s work, Picasso would have been enchanted by the figure/
ground reversals, the interplay of positive and negative space
and Yirawala’s infallible sense of placement of his motif in
relation to the shape of the bark support. White figures on
red ground leap from painting on rock to bark. The regional
variation of rarrk cross-hatching migrates from a ritual
context of abstract designs animated by dance, to their witty
translation into figurative depictions on bark. The two small
works from the Geddes Collection are excellent examples,
in which body painting designs specific to the ceremonial
context of the Mardayin are depicted upon the ghostly white
painted bodies of two astomatous dancers. As with the
mischievous Mimi figures, the immediacy of conception and
execution is palpable. Despite their modest size, both works
exude indisputable authority and power.
Full essay
Michiel Dolk, April 20, 2021

50 × 27.5 cm
Hogarth Galleries, Paddington, Estate of Bill and Ngaere Geddes, Sydney
© Yirawala/Copyright Agency, 2021
  • EStimate $6,000 - $8,000
  • sold $14,400 Incl BP
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