Earth pigments on Stringybark
83 x 29cm
Ṉuwayak (decorative bark painting)
This work is a decorative piece made from stringybark (Eucalyptus Tetradonta) which is harvested from the tree in the late Wet Season (February- June). Ṉuwayak means bark. The bark is usually initially heated intensely over a fire and then laid down flat for some weeks. After the surface is sanded smooth a layer of red paint us usually the first to go down.
The paints used are earth pigments. The red (Meku), yellow (Gaŋgul) and black (Gurrṉan) are provided by rubbing rocks of these colours against a grinding stone and then adding water and PVA glue in small quantities. A new batch of paint is prepared or renewed every few minutes as it dries or is used up. After an outline of the composition is laid down the marwat or crosshatching commences. This is applied using a brush made of a few strands of straight human hair usually from a young woman or girl. The artist charges the marwat (brush) with the paint and then paints away from themselves in a straight line. Each stroke requires a fresh infusion of pigment.
The last layer to be applied is almost always the white clay or Gapan which is made from kaolin harvested from special sites. This also has water and glue added after being crushed into a fine powder.
Most works are made in the homelands as a means of obtaining extra income to defray the huge expenses of travel and freight residents have to find to live on their ancestral land.