Warmun Art Centre treasures rise from the dead

Patrick Mung Mung

Warmun artist Patrick Mung Mung with a valuable painting by his father that was salvaged from the town's flooded art centre and restored to its former glory.
Picture: Stuart McEvoy Source: The Australian

AS floodwaters raced through the remote West Australian community of Warmun in March, the manager of the local arts centre thought its collection of historic paintings would be safe.
"We just couldn't imagine the water would go that high," said Maggie Fletcher, manager of Warmun Art Centre in a remote region of the Kimberley.

"There were about 400 (works from Warmun's pioneering artists) in a back room and just about everything got some kind of water damage. Some paintings ended up on the ground in the mud, and they were pretty badly damaged."

Shortly after the floods, the University of Melbourne transported 187 damaged paintings from Warmun to its Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, where they were stabilised.

In Melbourne this week, Patrick Mung Mung said he was happy to see one particular work, painted by his father, restored to its original state.

 ...The untitled painting, by George Mung Mung, is part of the archival collection of works by Warmun's early artists, including Hector Jandany, Queenie McKenzie, Paddy Jaminji and Jack Brittain.

Patrick Mung Mung, himself an artist, said the staff at the centre had done a good job of repairing his father's painting, which had been covered in mould and mud after the floods.

"I think it's all right. They washed all of it off and it's still the same," he said.

The work tells the story of a massacre at Horse Creek, east of Warmun. "In that place a lot of people got killed - they were burned," Mung Mung said.

On Tuesday night, Mung Mung and three other Gija elders arrived in Melbourne to give cultural advice on the restoration of the works.

The elders will also attend a fundraising dinner at the University of Melbourne tonight.

Ms Fletcher said about $100,000 was needed to finish restoring the collection and return it to Warmun.

"(The paintings) were done to show the children. They want them back to keep telling their children because now those old people who did them aren't with us any more," she said. "They're talking about having a big corroboree when the collection comes back to Warmun."

A work by Patrick Mung Mung will also go under the hammer on November 13 at Stills Gallery in Sydney, in an auction held by the Aboriginal Benefits Foundation to raise money for the art centre.

"We are getting a new building put up for the collection, so it's up high and safe," Ms Fletcher said.

"But we need money to fit the building out."

Mung Mung was working as a stockman when his father was painting. He started making his own art in 1998.

When the art centre was inundated, a number of Mung Mung's works were in the main gallery, which was flooded. "None of (Patrick's) works were actually lost and there's been a few that he's been able to repair," Ms Fletcher said. "There was one that I thought was gone but I found it stuck in between a table and a fence. He has fixed it up and it looks terrific."

Article by: Bridget Cormack From: The Australian, October 21, 2011 12:00AM

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