Maningrida artist Paul Namarinjmak Nabulumo’s lorrkkon’s (hollow log) selection as a Wynne Prize Finalist by the Art Gallery of NSW challenges mainstream ideas about what constitutes a landscape and how artists represent it.
The Wynne Prize is one of Australia’s most prestigious and influential art prizes. It is awarded annually for the best landscape painting of Australian scenery or for the best example of figure sculpture by Australian artists.
Mr Nabulumo’s entry is a large lorrkkon (hollow log) depicting two Ngalyod (rainbow serpents) at the site Kubumi on Kulmarru clan country. Kubumi is a series of deep waterholes along the Mann River that are connected by underground tunnels that Ngalyod created and where she rests today. Nabulumo has depicted the Ngalyod with forked tongues, sharp teeth and fin-like tails, referencing the freshwater bodies she inhabits and guards.
Maningrida Art Centre Manager, Chloe Gibbon, said the announcement of Mr Nabulumo as Wynne Prize finalist confirms his place as a leading contemporary artist.
“This is a crucial step toward reshaping the public’s view of Indigenous art practice,” Ms Gibbon said.
“The accolade takes this work out of the Indigenous art pigeon hole and reconceptualises it as an outstanding contemporary landscape piece.
Ms Gibbon said that recognition as a finalist will give Mr Nabulumo sway among a very influential audience in the art industry.
“The Wynne Prize is Australia’s most well-known landscape prize. It has a considerable reach in the art industry, and the public audience recognition for Paul will be fantastic.
“Paul is a mid-career artist, and this will look great on his CV.”
Ms Gibbon said Mr Nabulumo’s lorrkkon had an inauspicious start to its journey to the Art Gallery of NSW’s revered sandstone building in Sydney.
“Paul does his work on his homeland, which is an outstation of Maningrida”, Ms Gibbon said.
“The Lorrkkon travelled in a troopie for two hours on a corrugated dirt road before it has a week-long trip on a barge to Darwin, and then on to Sydney.”
“It’s a shame that Covid 19 travel restrictions prevent Paul from seeing his work displayed at the Gallery. Those trips are a great opportunity for remote artists who don’t have easy access to the metropolitan art institutions to see thousands of people admiring their artwork and recognising their enormous skill and knowledge”.
The recognition also helps lift the profile of Maningrida Art Centre, which is Bawinananga Aboriginal Corporations most enduring business.