Guido Maestri in WHO ARE YOU at National Gallery of Victoria

26 May 2022

WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture is the first and largest exhibition to comprehensively bring together the rich portrait holdings of both the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. The co-curated exhibition will examine portraiture across time and media and investigate works through the lens of past, present and future. Guido Masestri’s Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is currently featured in the aforementioned exhibition.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (1970–2017) is a Gumatj man from north-east Arnhem Land and was born blind. Despite his disability, he learned to play guitar, keyboard, drums and didgeridoo as a child. Gurrumul shot to prominence in 2008 with the release of his debut album Gurrumul, starring his unearthly voice, a fusion of music styles and aboriginal Gumatj stories in Yolngu. Rolling Stone, a renowned magazine covering music, politics and pop culture, deems Gurrumul as ‘Australia’s most important voice’. He quotes: ‘I like singing about the story properly, singing all the right names of land, and ancestors, because I have to give out the right story. It is like a celebration.’

Guido Maestri, astounded by Gurrumul’s performance in Sydney on New Year’s Eve 2008, arranged a hasty sitting with the musician at Sydney airport soon after and took several sketches and a photograph. Maestri worked on the painting while listening to Gurrumul’s music, each stroke influenced by his melody. The portrait received the Archibald Prize in 2009.

WHO ARE YOU is currently on view at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Fed Square until 21 August 2022.

Image: Guido Maestri, Geoffery Gurrumul Yunupingu, 2009, oil on linen, 203.0 x 172.4 x 6.6 cm