Words: Louise Martin-Chew
Kunmanara Mungkuri’s (1946 – 2021) paintings have an illustrative quality, with trees pressed up against the picture plane, birds perched in branches, washed and patterned backgrounds, and a border treatment that conveys his deep holistic knowledge of Country. His recent exhibition at Alcaston Gallery, exhibiting alongside fellow senior artist and countryman Alec Baker, featured paintings in soft black, white and shades of grey, and others using intense sunset pinks and oranges. Alcaston gallery manager Adriana Del Medico said the online exhibition was an immediate sell out. “Peter’s reputation certainly precedes him. The reception to his new works from our clients was immediate and incredible.”
Mungkuri was a senior Yankunytjatjara man and cultural leader in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. Before his passing in December 2021, Mungkuri told me his interest in trees was due to their status as “a symbol of Anangu culture – the punu (tree) is where our culture starts. I’ve painted my Country and all the different types of trees.”
Collectors are attracted by Mungkuri’s seniority and cultural knowledge, his unparalleled depictions of his place, and evocative aesthetic. Del Medico said, “His paintings are always of the highest standard; collectors recognise this quality and appreciate the work for his unique style and conviction.”
In 2020 Mungkuri received an OAM for services to visual arts and his Indulkana community, with other industry recognition evident in his selection for UN/Learning Australia, an exhibition of leading Australian First Nations artists co-curated by Artspace and Seoul Museum of Art. He won the 2017 Hadley’s Art Prize (Hobart) and in recent years was a multiple finalist in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and the Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Featured image above: Peter Mungkuri, Ngura (Country), 2021. Ink and synthetic polymer paint on linen, 76 x 61cm. Courtesy: the artist, Iwantja Arts, APY Lands and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne.
Featured image below: Peter Mungkuri, Ngura (Country), 2021. Ink and synthetic polymer paint on linen, 101 x 76cm. Courtesy: the artist, Iwantja Arts, APY Lands and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 99, January-March 2022.