Gunybi Ganambarr ✿ Creative industrial


17 October 2019

Aluminium mining has been seen as a threat to Yolŋu culture. In collaboration with Stephen Anthony, Gunybi Ganambarr uses this metal to express core values of his culture.

Yolŋu (Yolngu) artist Gunybi Ganambarr – the 2018 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards winner – has worked collaboratively with Stephen Anthony from JamFactory’s Furniture Studio, to create a new work. This work brings together opposing materials, steel and timber, to reflect the meeting of cultures as well as the binary and supporting interrelated nature of the moieties within Yolŋu culture. Ganambarr has also explored new industrial processes with JamFactory’s Metal Studio to produce his beautiful engraved metal works in serial form in an exhibition as part of Tarnanthi, the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art

Gunybi Ganambarr is of the Dhuwa moiety and the Ngaymil clan of North East Arnhem Land. Mentored by many of the master artists of the region Ganambarr began his artistic career in painting on bark and the Larrakitj. As a maverick and innovator, he has not been constrained by these traditional forms, rather he translates his sacred designs on an array of material including aluminium, steel and conveyor belts, often the detritus of the mining industry that scars his homeland.

The meticulous designs carved into the remnants embody the master hand of his Yolŋu aesthetic and represent systems of knowledge and art traditions that have been present for many thousands of years. The use of found media is an influence from the decade or more that Gunybi spent building houses in his homelands, applying the craftsmanship of building and use of new materials to his art practice through innovative repurposing.

“My thought is different from what they were thinking when the old people were painting. I try and bring the Yolŋu law (madayin) into reality. That is what is in my mind. To show what is already there.”

For the Tarnanthi festival, Ganambarr has undertaken a series of residencies at JamFactory to realise new artworks that will be presented alongside works produced on Country. During his residency, Ganambarr worked closely with Stephen Anthony in JamFactory’s Furniture Studio, introducing new timbers such as River Red Gum for carving as well as sandblasting techniques on metal into Gunybi’s mark-making repertoire. Ganambarr is also working with JamFactory’s Metal Studio to introduce more industrialised processes in the production of his artwork. The introduction of laser and acid etching provides the opportunity for Ganambarr to mix line quality, use varying types of metal, and produce work in serial. To begin the process, Ganambarr drew a “cartoon” of a design that has been scanned to create files for laser and chemical etching.

Stephen Anthony has gained a lot of insight about his own practice whilst working with Ganambarr. “To watch Gunybi walk through the timberyard and see pieces of timber – you can see he is plotting out what it could be, without having to drastically change its form. His approach is so sympathetic to the material, a reminder that less is more.”

Mother and Child is showing at JamFactory, Adelaide in Gallery One from 12 October – 1 December 2019.

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