Rock Art Style – Gabriel Maralngurra

First I was watching my uncle Thompson Yulidjirri doing painting in rock art style. When I was a young fella he took me up the hill for the first time. We were going up the hill and he was showing me the rock art in the similar cross hatching style that we’re doing but different. I was also learning from my father in law, Lofty Nadjamerrek, who is also a famous artist. I used to see them both painting here on this verandah where I paint and back home. I used to see Lofty paint at the house and that’s how I learnt how to paint. I learnt the dreamtime stories. I became more interested in painting cross hatching and x-ray style.

I am mentoring and teaching the young ones how to do the traditional West Arnhem Land painting style like I paint. I am always happy to see the rock art painting style. It’s good for tourists to see rock art style on paper and on bark. Tourists go up the hill, they see x-ray painting and that’s what we paint at the art centre. They ask what’s the difference between cross hatching and single hatching.

Our people started painting with single hatching. Afterwards they started painting cross hatching. It makes it look really good but it’s still x-ray style. That’s the way for me. X-ray style is important, it shows the anatomy; heart, liver, lungs.  It’s about what’s inside the animal’s body. I like painting both styles, cross hatching and x-ray style and merging both to create my new style. I put the background and then build up layers of lines for decoration and overlapping on top of each other, combining like Rock art. Sometimes I paint on both layers and it comes through. I get ideas from my imagination and from the rock art to make my designs. I want people to feel the spirits and the elders who were doing those styles when they look at my paintings. I want them to feel and touch how it was done, to see the past continuing in the present.

Gabriel Maralngurra