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Sold at Auction: Roy Burnyila



Artist: Roy Burnyila
Art Centre: Bula bula Arts
Region: Arnhem Land

Artwork Story

Born in 1955 on his father’s country, Ngalyindi, central Arnhem Land, Burnyila learnt to paint under the tuition of his father, painting the Arafura Swamp and personal totems such as the Yalman (water lilies), Gumang (magpie geese), Warrnyu (flying fox), Banda (Longneck turtles) and Bapi (snakes). Burnyila is also renowned for his single coloured lined rarrk.

Burnyila appeared in the 1967 documentary film Across the Top by Malcolm Douglas, documenting the traditional life in Arnhem Land, The Gulf of Carpenteria and Cape York. Burnyila paintings also feature in the Film 12 Canoes.

Burnyila was at the forefront of Aboriginal Art, being exhibited in the group exhibition in 1983, then featuring in the exhibition ‘Objects and Representations from Ramingining’ in 1984, held at the Power Institute of Contemporary Art, Sydney.
Burnyila acquired an artist in residency in the aboriginal community of Cabletown, NSW in 1985, where he continued to paint and refine his unique style of crosshatching and swamp totems. Burnyila created six Dupun (Hollow Logs) for the renowned 1988 Aboriginal Memorial, an installation of 200 Dupun commemorating the deaths of indigenous people since white occupation. The installation was exhibited at the Biennial of Sydney, beneath the Southern Cross, before moving to the National Gallery of Australia as a permanent display. Burnyila completed a certificate II in Visual Arts at the Charles Darwin University in 2013 and was successfully pre selected for the 2012 Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards for his work titled Raypiny dhawu (freshwater story).
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