Two bark paintings from the Australian Museum’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection are currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay in Sydney at the overview exhibition of work by Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO.

Bardayal 'Lofty' Nadjamerrek was born in Arnhem Land around 1926. Not only was he a well respected elder and leader, he was also a world renowed artist. Lofty was one of the last of his genereation to create the traditional rock paintings in his area of Arnhem Land, and in the last 30 years he produced an impressive amount of wonderful bark paintings.

Keith Munro, the MCA’s curator of Indigenous programs, wanted to showcase Lofty’s impressive body of work in an overview exhibition, but sadly during the preparations for this exhibition Lofty passed away. However, despite their loss, his family was very supportive that this important exhibition should still go ahead as planned to celebrate Lofty’s life, work and legacy. It is also his grandchildren that were invited by the MCA to paint a large mural on one of the main walls of the exhibition space. The result is both impressive and touching, as Lofty was the person that encouraged and taught this younger generation to paint the stories and figures of importance to their land and clans.

The two paintings from the Australian Museum’s collection that are included in the loan to the MCA are a small bark painting of a bush turkey, and a larger bark painting depicting a barramundi. These animals, amongst other animal figures as well as the depiction of the Rainbow Serpent, were of great importance to the stories connected to his land and in the exhibition you will see the multitude of bark paintings depicting these themes and figures.

The exhibition at the MCA opened on the 10th of December 2010 and will be open until the 20th of March 2011.