Week #42 Ngak Ngak and the ruined city: a painting

by SJ Finn

The first time I saw a painting by Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, I laughed out loud. I wasn’t laughing at the painting, which was of a football match (Aussie Rules style) but laughing, joyously, with it, if you get my drift. I’d never laughed from seeing a painting before, and haven’t since. Perhaps that’s why I’ll never forget it.

All Ginger’s paintings have a shameless sense of playfulness, even mischievousness about them. This doesn’t mean that the work lacks seriousness. On the contrary, many of the images contain messages about country and creation. The totemic white-breasted sea-eagle, Ngak Ngak, for instance, is often depicted looking down over the land and its inhabitants in the role of guardian.

Ginger is most famous for painting his mother’s country, the Limmen Bight and the Limmen Bight River in the Northern Territory of Australia. Using luminous colours along with opaque flattened forms, the representation of heavy rain-filled clouds or fine rain and bright sunlight form part of his creation story.

Here, like all his work, nothing is wasted or done frivolously. But, alongside this, all of his paintings fill the heart and the mind with a colourful warmth that brings the world closer.

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