Old Way & New Way: Kieren Karritpul + Patricia Marfurra

The Cross Art Projects | 28-Mar-2019
The premise for the exhibition Yerr Wetimbi yi Yerr Marrgu / Old Way & New Way is deceptively simple: linguist and artist / weaver Patricia Marfurra has made a huge and magical woven fishnet which Kieren Karritpul translates into delicate abstract paintings. The working relationship between mother and son Patricia Marfurra and Kieren Karritpul, however, reveals a shared commitment to sustainability and community: the artist's woven and painted tributes made old way and new way honour their ancestors and their teachings and demonstrate the way strong cultural connections in daily life can be maintained.
Venue: The Cross Art Projects
Address: 8 Llankelly Place, Kings Cross 2011
Date: Exhibition runs 30 March to 27 April 2019
Time: Opening 2pm, Saturday 30 March
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Kieren Karritpul + Patricia Marfurra
Kieren Karripul, Sun Mat, 102.5 X 110.5 CM, Acrylic on Linen, 2019
As members of a small, intense art community. Kieren Karritpul and Patricia Marfurra are recognised Ngen'gi wumirri artists from Nauiyu Nambiyu, a small community on the Daly River about three hours south-west of Darwin. In Daly River there is no escaping the woven lines of inspiration and connection. The woven form of the Merrepen palm is both subject and metaphor and part of their process. Yerrgi is the Daly River word (Ngan'gikurrungurr language) for the ubiquitous pandanus plant, the Screw Palm, Pandanus spiralis which together with the Sand Palm (merrepen, Livistona humilis) are the main sources of fibre for Top End weavers.

The artists invite us to share this inter-generational collaboration, communication and exchange. The exhibition's piece de resistance Patricia's handwoven net is traditionally used by older women to collect fish and turtles. In Kieren Karritpul's paintings and textiles the fishnet is a reoccurring motif and each painted line echoes the woven line. As a young man, Kieren watched his mother (Patricia), grandma and other older ladies fishing in a billabong where kids catch fish or barramundi. Today he applies this keen gaze to hunting.

Writing the catalogue essay for Kieren Karritpul's solo exhibition at Nomad Arts in Darwin in 2015, the astute art historian Maurice O'Riordan noted the lineage of Top End artists who give form to woven objects through the two-dimensional medium of painting. O'Riordan cites Daly River and nearby Peppimenarti in particular (pioneered by Regina Wilson and the late Patsy Marrfura), Arnhem Land artists such as Kate Miwulku (Maningrida) and Robyn Djunginy (Ramingining) and Darwin-based artist Karen Mills's "minimalist musings on this theme through painterly abstraction". It is a grand tradition and one that Kieren and Patricia continue to take delight in and now one of contemporary Australian art's great themes. The communal process of gathering and preparing the pandanus fibres is also an opportunity for passing on 'old stories' and cultural knowledge. From this we infer that it is time to shift our conversations to what we can and are doing to conserve traditional botanical knowledge and water resources in the face of global climate collapse. The traditional owners are worried about the Northern Territory government's policy of issuing long-term water licences to extract very large amounts of water from the aquifers which feed the Daly, Katherine and Roper Rivers, without a water allocation plan in place.

About the artists

Kieren Karritpul: In 2015 Karritpul was Highly Commended, Youth at the 32nd National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and in 2014, Karritpul won the Youth Award at the 31st NATSIAA at the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory. His artwork is in the collections of National Gallery of Australia, Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), Sydney and the Museum of Cultural History, Norway. Sources: Merrepen Arts, Nomad Arts, NATSIAA.

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