We are delighted to announce the 2019 recipient of the Power Publications Dissertation Prize for Indigenous Art Research, Dr Jonathan Jones. Supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund, this prize recognises new research and writing on Indigenous art within a scholarly context and is awarded to the best PhD, DPhil or Master by Research written on Indigenous art. This year the prize was judged by Associate Professor Donna Leslie, Australian Art, Griffith University.
ABOUT THE WINNER
A member of the Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi nations of south-east Australia, Jonathan Jones is an artist, curator and researcher. As an artist he works across a range of mediums, from printmaking and drawing to sculpture and film, to create site-specific installations and interventions that engage Aboriginal practices, relationships and knowledge. Jones’s work champions local knowledge systems, is grounded in research of the historical archive and builds on community aspirations. At the heart of his practice is the act of collaborating and many projects have seen him work with other artists and communities, including with Dr Uncle Stan Grant Senior. Jones has exhibited both nationally and internationally, and his work has been collected by state, national and international institutions. In 2016 Jonathan presented the 32nd Kaldor Public Art Project, ‘barrangal dyara: skin and bones’, at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, and in 2018 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship in the field of visual arts.
ABOUT THE DISSERTATION
This research is titled ‘Murruwaygu: following in the footsteps of our ancestors’. The Wiradjuri word ‘murruwaygu’ refers to the designs carved onto trees and other cultural material unique to the south-east region: repeating lines, patterned chevrons and concentric squares, diamonds and rhomboids, with the inclusion of an occasional figure. Widely recognised as central to south-east identity, murruwaygu can be seen in artistic practices from pre-contact until today, establishing a clear cultural tradition that has endured massive change. This research charts this constant practice by investigating four distinct periods or generations. Representing Mumala (grandfather) or first generation is pre-contact material—the carved and designed marga (parrying shield) and girran.girran (broad shield). The second or Babiin (father) generation features 19th-century Koori artists William Barak, a Wurundjeri man from the current Melbourne area, and Tommy McRae, from the upper Murray River near the contemporary border of NSW and Victoria. These artists documented their changing worlds with introduced materials like paper, pen and pencil, continuing line-work as a leading visual principle. The third or Wurrumany (son) generation focuses on self-taught senior Wiradjuri mission artists Uncle Roy Kennedy and the late HJ Wedge. Both use painting and printmaking that features line-work to document their life experiences of growing up on missions in NSW under segregation policies. Finally, the Warunarrung (grandson) generation is represented by professional and tertiary-educated contemporary Melbourne-based artists Reko Rennie (Kamilaroi) and Steaphan Paton (Gunai/Monero), who both work with new mediums while continuing line traditions. Like these Koori artists, this thesis uses the line as its organising principle, both practically and metaphorically, to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors. Focusing on continuity and change, this research provides the first art-historical account of Koori men’s art from pre-contact to today.
Jonathan Jones’s doctoral dissertation ‘Murruwaygu: following in the footsteps of our ancestors’, is a significant and engaging contribution to the unfolding stories of Koori artistic practice in south-east Australia. Jones’s focus upon line in the work of male artists of this region, over four generations, is a culturally significant recognition of an aesthetic that has survived dramatic change as a consequence of colonisation.
Jones addresses the need for increased research in this important area which has been neglected by scholars historically. He underpins his research with a Wiradjuri research methodology, which he refers to as Yindyamarra Winhanganha. The core of his methodology is yindyamarra or cultural respect.
This is a unique and beautifully conceived dissertation which addresses cultural protocols through consultation with Indigenous people and communities.
Jonathan Jones must be congratulated for this most welcome contribution to the art of south-east Australia. The sophistication and innovation in the development of his own work as an artist is mirrored in the way he writes.
Associate Professor Donna Leslie, Australian Art, Griffith University.