The significance of fire to the Yunupingu family of the Gumatj clan is paramount. Represented by diamond shaped miny’tji, motifs or sacred clan designs, the painting depicts gurtha or fire. It particularly represents the Fire. This is by no means an ordinary fire but one of supernatural intensity. All that it touches is/was/will be forever changed. The Fire exists in every atom of Gumatj land. When the trees have grown back and living witnesses have gone, the land will still remember the Fire. The fire is also the hearth of domesticity and the ashes of ancestral campsites (Artist exhibition statement 2012).
Curatorial insightGurtha is the artist’s unique depiction of an important Gumatj clan design which represents fire. The reference to fire in this work speaks not only about human uses of fire in life, for warmth, cooking and light, but more importantly it recalls a great fire which occurred during the creation times, a fire that transformed every part of the landscape that it touched, revitalising and changing the landscape in perpetuity. Barrupu Yunupingu’s appreciation of one of life’s most mystical elements inspires her to render mesmerising surfaces on bark which depict the movement and bursts of luminous colour seen in a burning fire, while at the same time sharing and maintaining important Gumatj symbology and clan design. (AGWA 2012)