Nyapanyapa Yunupingu (1945 – 2021) was an Australian Yolngu painter and printmaker who lived and worked in the community at Yirrkala, Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory.
She first began creating limited edition screenprints in 1996 (with other women artists from the art centre), producing highly colourful images of plants, animals and associated narratives. These prints prompted a new energy and direction into the Yirrkala print workshop. Nyapanyapa began painting on bark in 2007. These barks depict personal and playful depictions of plants, animals, landscapes and events. In 2008, Nyapanyapa attracted critical acclaim when she won the Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award at the annual Telstra NATSIA Awards. This installation of video and print reflected on incident from the 1970’s when she was badly gored by a buffalo.
In 2009, Nyapanyapa began a series of works that were expressly without reference to sacred law or narrative. They were simply an exercise in line and rhythm. These were jokingly referred to as mayilimiriw, which translates as ‘meaningless’.
Her artwork is valued for the spontaneity and texture of her hand. She expresses her capacity to live in the moment in the freeness of her mark making. There is no calculation or even regard for the audience in her renditions. Their final appearance is almost random. They are an expression of the movements of her hand as they happen to have taken place on that particular day. She has constantly overturned conventions of Yolngu art unleashing a personal journey which has transformed her art into new conceptual realms.
Nyapanyapa has recently been producing works on acetate using a paint pen. For the seven sisters project she drew again onto acetate using a white paint pen. This drawing was then exposed using a photographic process onto a plate and printed.
In 2012, she was selected to exhibit her ‘Light Paintings’ at the 18th Biennale of Sydney and was featured in the Second National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.
Sadly, Nyapanyapa passed away in October 2021.