Aboriginal bark paintings comprise final section of Cbus art collection auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 19th August, 2022

When legendary Australian artworld figure the late Dr Joseph Brown was assembling an art collection for Australian superannuation giant Cbus, he was careful to include Aboriginal bark paintings by Wally Mandarrk (1915-1987), a senior member of the Barabba clan from South-Central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory fluent in the Dalabon language and one of the last artists known to have painted on rock.

Dr Brown procured 29 of the final 46 recorded bark paintings that Mandarrk completed. They were assembled as a collection by Maningrida Arts and Crafts in the last years of the artist’s life and acquired by Cbus in 1994.

He and fellow art enthusiast the late Professor Bernard Smith had convinced Cbus that preservation of Australia’s art heritage was a worthy long-term investment after they noticed much of it was leaving the country for overseas collections.

These significant bark works (all of which are framed) on various subject matters demonstrate Mandarrk’s individual style and steadfast commitment to traditional painting techniques – and 22 of them comprise the final and Part IV section (titled Seeing by Eye, Thinking by Mind) of the Deutscher and Hackett Cbus art collection timed online auction finishing from 7pm on Tuesday August 23.

Aboriginal bark painting lovers will be smitten from the opening lot – entitled Ngalkit (Saratoga-Scleropages Jardini), Bokorn (Spangled Grunter) – which has a catalogue estimate of $4000-$6000.

Lot 3 is entitled Dabbarr (Partridge Pigeons) features natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark, just like lot 6 entitled Namormoyak (Spirit Returning from Hunting) that is in near original condition.

Modjarrki (The Freshwater Crocodile) (lot 7) is another appealing work that was exhibited in the National Treasures exhibition at Victoria’s Latrobe Regional Gallery from November 2015 to March 2016.

Visitors saw Mandarrk’s Kandakitdj (Male Plains Kangaroo with Human Hand Removing Stone Spearpoint) (lot 8) as a major drawcard of the Celestial Earth exhibition from November 2011 to March 2012 at the same gallery.

Likewise, the bark entitled Bird and Fish Species (lot 9) was part of both exhibitions. Lot 11, Male Spirit with Spearthrower (Borndok) and Hooked Spear (Bokko) is another strong work worth close examination.

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