Part one: Painting as if through a veil. In this film we learn about the food plants of East Arnhem Land through the eyes, pen and brush of two great artists. These two films are dedicated to Mulkun Wirrpanda for her wisdom and leadership.

John Wolseley and Mulkun Wirrpanda

In 2009 Nomad Art Productions organised a cross cultural art project called Djalkiri: we are standing on their names. The project was based around the powerful and distinguished culture and environment of Blue Mud Bay in East Arnhem Land. It was here, and in Baniyala, that Mulkun Wirrpanda and John Wolseley met. And so it was, that in 2009, the artists from the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre in Yirrkala and a group of western artists worked together, made lasting friendships and learned from each other, all of these things culminating in an exhibition at the Nomad Art gallery in Darwin.

In these companion films, John Wolseley and Yolŋu elder Mulkun Wirrpanda describe the role that the food plants of East Arnhem Land have in sustaining the wellbeing of Mulkun’s people.

“This is the food we ate when I was young. Back then everywhere we looked there were old people. Strong and healthy – they lived with us for a long time”. 

This is also the idea that John describes and has so wholeheartedly supported in his great collaboration with Mulkun, the strength of which is so handsomely described in these films and the exhibition and book, Midawarr I Harvest: The art of Mulkun Wirrpanda and John Wolseley.

Part 1: Painting as if through a veil (26 minutes)

Part 2: Living forms of the landscape (29 minutes)

We are now at the end of 2017 and the friendship between Mulkun and John has continued to grow in strength (now brother and sister in the Yolngu way of these things).  The Djalkiri project has also had a life of its own and has evolved to become a body of works, bark paintings and larrakitj from Mulkun and a large composite painting from John, that depict the teaming nature of the Northern Australian wetland system and specifically its food plants. The works of the two artists come together in the exhibition Midawarr I Harvest at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra.

Creative cowboy films role in all of this has been to document John’s painting as it evolved from early beginnings to completion. In all there were three trips to John’s studio as we travelled from Tokyo and on to John’s studio in the Whipstick Forest in Central Victoria. As for the cycle of life, John’s painting was created through the seasons, culminating in its harvest, the completion of the painting and its journey to Canberra and the National Museum of Australia.

In part one of this long journey, Painting as if through a veil, John describes the artists’ purpose in creating the body of works which sit so well together in their difference. We learn about Mulkun and John discusses the techniques and philosophy behind his own work. There are the usual engaging and amusing moments that we expect from John but there is serious purpose here that we should all come to know.

The exhibition also contains a short film, which is a combined work with our friends from the Mulka Project, who completed the final editing. As always it was a joy to work with them.

There is a lot to say and there is no one better to say it than John….