Fishtrap 2010 Materials & Technique: sculptures, metalwork, aluminium
Elegantly suspended and bridging the atrium between the National Gallery of Australia’s original building and the new wing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is the twelve metre long aluminium Mandjabu or Fish Trap. This specially commissioned sculpture for the Gallery’s stage 1 opening in 2010, introduces the new gallery displays and was designed based on a c.1985 barramundi fish trap already in the National Gallery of Australia’s collection.
The original fish trap is by an unknown artist however it is likely to be by eastern Kunwinjku renowned fish trap maker Anchor Kalunba, the father of respected Maningrida painter John Mawurndjul AM. The Gallery has a number of traditional fish traps in the collection, however as fish traps are woven of vegetable fibres, they are prone to the effects of environmental fluctuation and light damage over time. It was decided that one of these traps in the collection would be the most suitable for up scaling as a metal sculptural piece.
Brisbane firm Urban Art Projects undertook to interpret and enlarge the original fish trap into a comanding12 metre long intricate metal work. During the development of this sculpture, advice was sought from Maningrida Arts and Craft, particularly George Ganyjbala, elder and skilled fish trap maker and his family, to respectfully translate woven natural fibres into cast aluminium.
The Maningrida fish trap is an important sculptural commission created to be a lasting and dramatic statement in the Gallery’s new atrium. It presents a contemporary interpretation of a traditional woven fish trap from the Maningrida Aboriginal community in Australia’s Northern Territory and announces the new displays of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. The position of the fish trap offers multiple vantage points from the ground floor and second storey walkway where the shadow pattern it produces is almost as beautiful as the work itself.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra