In the far Eastern corner of Arnhem Land sits Yirrkala Print Space, where, for over twenty years, the art of printmaking has prospered. Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression celebrated this space with works from 50 artists, providing a privileged insight into the nuanced world of Yolngu people of Northeast Arnhem Land.
The exhibition title, Balnhdhurr, translates to mean a mark made as a sign for people to follow. It describes a situation where one group goes ahead but wants to leave a message for those following behind. An impression is scratched into the ground with a sign directing the future viewer to follow the right path.
With works from 50 artists, Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression included prints that are historically significant. The Berndt Etchings series talks about the Berndt Crayon Drawings of Yirrkala, produced by the artists’ predecessors in 1947, while String Figure Prints are a response to another archaeological collection from 1948. Pieces in the exhibition also revealed the significant impact the introduction of bright acrylics had on artists, which allowed them to explore a whole new genre of artistic storytelling that became a joyous explosion of colour and expression.
Every print has to be the design of the artist’s own clan or connecting clan. The design has to be done very carefully so as not to mix them up, and to understand their story. We have to talk about it with other people in that clan, so when the design is printed there is no problem. It’s a similar idea to the traditional designs used in the bark paintings and the wood carving, but in printmaking we get the direction from our elders to design the image of the outside story only. In the workshop a lot of Yolngu come and watch what we do in the print studio so they can understand the process.
Marrnyula Mununggurr and Mundul Wunungmurra Mununggurr
Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression provided an opportunity for a wider audience to recognise the accomplishments of a sustainable, functional and thriving print studio operating in an isolated landscape. Yirrkala Print Space began in 1995 when a purpose built area was designed to host a printing press. With over 800 editions by 137 produced through the studio since then, Yirrkala Print Space has become an integral and vital component of the community.
Accompanying the exhibition was a free smartphone app that provided a deeper engagement with the artists and artworks as well as Yolgnu language and culture. An inclusive and dynamic way to introduce visitors to the exhibition, the app allowed for more detailed interaction with the history and context of the Yirrkala Print Space. The app also included audio descriptions of selected objects, a video tour of Miwatj country and educational activities.
The app is good because people can look at the designs and understand clearly the yolŋu matha words, so we are sharing our stories.
Munuy’ŋu (Rebecca) Marika
This exhibition was supported by the Visions regional touring program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to cultural material for all Australians.
Selected works in this exhibition are audio described. Have a listen!
Follow the artist
Welcome to Miwatj Country
Join Yirrkala printmaker’s Bawu Gurruwiwi, Bitharr Maymuru and Munuy’ngu Marika as they introduce their Art Centre and Print Space in Miwatj Country.
Video produced by the Mulka Project, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre and Artback NT.
Camera: Gutingarra Yunupingu, Sound: Mundatjnggu Mununggurr and Voice over by Bulmiri Yunupingu
Exploring twenty years of remote printmaking at Yirrkala Print SpaceDenise Salvestro, IMPRINT - Print Council of Australia
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