The aim of this article is to assist readers in identifying if their aboriginal bark painting is by George Milpurru by comparing examples of his work.
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George Milpurru paints in a Central Arnhem land bark painting land style using a combination of solid blocks of colour crosshatching Rarrk and dots. It is Milpurru’s ability to play between foreground and background that characterises his paintings with blocks of flat colour contrasting against intricate rarrk cross-hatching to create a strong graphic effect.
George drew on the traditions of Western Arnhem Land bark painting, who applied cross-hatching solely within the figurative motifs of the work. He also borrowed on the Eastern Arnhem Land convention of leaving figures depicted in plain black against a heavily patterned background.
He often takes a single traditional motif and repeats it across the bark painting as shown in his painting of flying foxes. The repetition of these images are motifs found in sacred paintings made for ceremonial purposes.
George grew up in swamp country in the middle section of the Glyde River. This swamp became the wellspring from which Milpurru’s drew his artistic inspiration. He drew swamp animals including turtles, magpie geese, flying foxes, fish lizards, kangaroo, crocodile goanna and snakes. His colours are rich and brilliant and his works tend to be more appeal to the mainstream than tribal art collectors.
George Milpurru was raised in his father’s country Ngalyindi on the Ganalbingu outstation near the Arafura swamp. He began bark painting under the guidance of his father, Nhulmarmar.
He first began selling his work in the 1970’s at Milingimbi. However with the establishment of Bula Bula Aboriginal Art at Ramingining in the late 1970’s, Milburru moved there to advance his artistic career.
One of Milpurru’s central narratives is that of the Magpie Geese. At the end of the monsoon period the magpie geese lay their eggs. The Ganalbingu then venture out in stringy bark canoes to hunt the Magpie geese eggs. A ceremony called Gurrumbumbungu is held in conjunction with the hunting to ensure the magpie geese will lay again. During the ceremony men perform the Goose dance with cooked eggs, which are later given to the women to rub over their newborn babies. Milpurru mastered not only painting and dance, but could also fashion his own canoes, woven fish traps and tools.
George Milpurru and his contemporaries like David Malangi, Jimmy Wululu, and Bob Bilinyara are attributed with placing Central Arnhem Land Aboriginal art firmly on the art map during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
He was a ceremonial leader of the Ganalbingu language speaking people, a skilled hunter, amarngitj or traditional healer, a ceremonial singer and dancer.
George Milpurru Bark Painting images
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