Gumbirri Gargining 1996

ONUS, Lin (Yorta Yorta)

Registration number



ONUS, Lin (Yorta Yorta)


Gumbirri Gargining

Production date



ink on paper

Dimensions (H x W x D)

50 x 74.5 cm

Credit line

Purchased 1999
City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection
© the artist


Lin Onus, Yorta Yorta, Gumbirri Gargining, 1996


Painter, sculptor and activist Lin Onus (1948–96) was a Yorta Yorta man instrumental in shaping the urban Aboriginal art movement. His father, Bill Onus, founded the Victorian Aboriginal Advancement League and his mother was a communist of Scottish descent, so cultural advocacy and a critical perspective were perhaps in Lin Onus’s DNA. He expressed a vibrant Aboriginal culture through his art, and this placed him centrally in debates concerning the vestiges of colonialism in the arts industry machine, and indeed in Australian history and society more generally.

Onus began his artistic life assisting his father in creating cultural artefacts in Melbourne, before establishing an independent painting practice in the 1970s. A journey to Arnhem Land in 1986, during which he developed a close relationship with cultural custodians Jack Wunuwun and John Bullun Bulun, was pivotal in his outlook and his art. Onus was given permission to depict stories and clan designs, and this led to his highly distinctive visual style, in which he combined photorealistic natural environments with traditional imagery.

This screen print exemplifies this style. ‘Gumbirri Gargining’ are distinguished from the stones on which they sit by the traditional cross-hatching pattern that picks out their shells. Made in 1996, the screen-print is numbered 82 in an edition of 85, and it came into the collection in 1999.