How Regina Pilawuk Wilson’s Syaw Painting Preserve Lost Knowledge

Detail of Regina Pilawuk Wilson’s “Syaw (Fishnet)”

The patterns in this painting mimic the stitch and weave of the syaw, large cylindrical fishnets made from the pinbin (bush vine). With the imposition of mission life, knowledge of how to make the nets vanished. Regina Pilawuk Wilson sought to revive the lost art in 2014 when she traveled to the distant outstation of Yilan to learn from Freda Wyartja and sisters Lily and Bonnie Roy. In turn, Wilson has taught the stitch to younger generations in primary schools. Her paintings are similarly a conscious attempt to revitalize lost traditions, showing that persistence and change coexist in Ngan’gikurrungurr culture.

This work is on view in Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia through September 9, 2018.

Meet the Marking the Infinite Artists: Nyapanyapa Yunupingu

In this series, we introduce the nine artists behind Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia, on view at The Phillips Collection June 2–September 9, 2018.

Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Circles, 2014, Felt tip pen and earth pigments on paper, Nine panels of 30 x 22 in. Collection of Debra and Dennis Scholl © Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, courtesy Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, Yirrkala. Photo: Sid Hoeltzell

Born c. 1945, Miwatj, Northern Territory
Lives and works in Yirrkala, Northern Territory

Nyapanyapa Yunupingu has become one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists. Hailing from a powerful Yolngu family, Nyapanyapa is the daughter of statesman and artist Mungurrawuy Yunupingu and is the younger sister of artist Gulumbu Yunupingu. Through the Yirrkala Printspace—the only full-time, Indigenousstaffed fine art print studio in the country—Yunupingu has become an acclaimed printmaker. Her bark paintings, larrakitj poles, and multimedia works are held in every major public collection in Australia. In 2016 she was featured in the Sydney Biennale, and the Bangarra Dance Theatre performed a work inspired by her life.

Change, Change, Change in Lena Yarinkura’s Work

Installation view of Lena Yarinkura’s “Yawkyawk” in Marking the Infinite.

“In the beginning, I used to make baskets, and string bags, and mats. Then I had another idea, a new idea, and I started different themes: camp dogs, and yawkyawk, made out of pandanus and some stringybark. Just doing different things. Before, people didn’t have any new ideas—they just made baskets and mats—but not this thing. So I teach them, and they got my idea. I always think to make different things— it’s really hard. But I like to keep changing, always new. Not same one. Just make different things because I have to change, change, change. I can’t just make one. No! Because I’ve got a lot of Dreamings.”–Lena Yarinkura

This work is on view in Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia through September 9, 2018.