Born in c1925 in the bush on the outskirts of Ramingining, Central Arnhem Land, Gudthaykudthay was the only child to father Lika and mother Ganinydja 1 of the Djardewitijibi Tribe. Gudthaykudthay’s mother’s country is Ramingining, making him a Senior Custodian (djunngayi) of Ramingining. Gudthaykudthay paints both his mother’s country and dis father’s country.
Before painting, Gudthaykudthay worked as a Stockman, Truck Driver, Fencer, and Crocodile Hunter selling crocodile skins to the Milingimbi Mission.
Gudthaykudthay learnt the skills of painting in the 1960’s, at the Nangalala Mission on the Glyde River, under the instruction of his half brother Mirritja. Gudthaykudthay soon developed an individual style consisting of abstract landscape designs, which were exhibited as fine art, devoid of ethnographical details in their exhibition (Garry Anderson Gallery, Sydney, 1983).
Gudthaykudthay first recorded exhibition, Traditions and Innovations, was held in 1979 at the Legislative Assembly in Darwin. However, it was not till 1983 that Gudthaykudthay had his first solo exhibition held at the Garry Anderson Gallery, Sydney. This exhibition consisted of bark paintings, featuring abstract landscape designs and clan patterns. The National Gallery of Australia acquired two of these bark paintings.
Gudthaykudthay created five Dupun (Hollow Logs) for the renowned 1988 Aboriginal Memorial, an installation of 200 Dupun commemorating the deaths of indigenous people since white occupation. The installation was exhibited at the Biennial of Sydney- Beneath the Southern Cross, before moving to the National Gallery of Australia where it in on permanent display.
Gudthaykudthay completed a printmaking course in 1990’s, at Charles Darwin University, focusing on lithography, lino cut and screen-printing. Gudthaykudthay has produced numerous successful prints, commonly with the stories of the Wagilag Sisters, Wititj (olive python) and the Native Cat – his personal totem. In 2013, Gudthaykudthay further completed a certificate II in Visual Arts at the Charles Darwin University.
Gudthaykudthay featured in the 1967 documentary film Across the Top by Malcolm Douglas. The film documented traditional indigenous life in Arnhem Land, the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York.
In 2005, Gudthaykudthay made his big screen debut as The Sorcerer in the landmark Australian film 10 Canoes. The film was a great success and aided in educating the world about Yolngu culture in Ramingining, Central Arnhem Land.
Gudthaykudthay is the most senior artist from Ramingining and the last active artist from the Milingimbi school of painters. Taught by great artists, such as his father Dawidi and his uncle Djawa, Gudthaykudthay has been painting since the 1960s. His totems include Burruwara the native cat, Wititj the olive python, the water goanna and Badurru the hollow log.
Used as a repository for the bones of deceased people, badurru (hollow log coffins) have been created for exhibition since the 1950s. They refer potently to the spiritual universe beyond earthly existence. The shapes of the cylindrical logs lend themselves to the calm, insistent rhythm of Philip Gudthaykudthay’s geometric designs, which the artist has also successfully translated onto bark paintings.
Gudthaykudthay had his first solo exhibition in 1983 at the Gary Anderson Gallery, Sydney. He has had several exhibitions in the years since then, and has also exhibited in many group shows. Gudthaykudthay’s paintings were included in the exhibition, ‘The Painters of the Wagilag Sisters Story 1937–1997’, held at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. the exhibition show cased paintings by Paddy Dhathungu, Dawidi and Philip Gudthaykudthay in one room. Three generations of artists painting one story in one place.
Aboriginal Art Museum, The Netherlands
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
British Museum, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, London, UK
Charles Darwin University, Darwin
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
Ganter Myer Collection
Kluge-Rhue Collection, University of Virginia, USA
Linden Museum, Stuttgart, Germany
Milingimbi Collection, MECA, Milingimbi Educational and Cultural Association
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
Museum of Contemporary Art, Ramingining Collection, Sydney
Museum of Mankind, British Museum, London
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, USA
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Brisbane
University of Queensland, Anthropology Museum, St Lucia.
University of Technology, Sydney.
Caruana, W., 1987, Australian Aboriginal Art, a Souvenir Book of Aboriginal Art in the Australian National Gallery, Australian National Gallery, Parkes, Australian Capital Territory.
Caruana, W. (ed.), 1989, Windows on the Dreaming, Ellsyd Press, Sydney.
Caruana, Wally and Lendon Nigel, 1997, The Painters of the Wagilag Sisters Story 1937-1997, National Gallery of Australia.
Douglas, M. and Oldmeadow, D., 1972, Across the Top, Rigby Ltd, Adelaide.
1993, Aratjara, Art of the First Australians: Traditional and Contemporary Works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists, exhib. cat. (conceived and designed by Bernard Luthi in collaboration with Gary Lee), Dumont, Buchverlag, Koln.
Isaacs, Jennifer, 1999, Spirit Country: Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art, Hardie Grant Books, Australia.
Kleinert, Sylvia & Neale, Margo, 2000, The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Oxford University Press, Australia
Lendon, Nigel, 2001, Beyond Translation: Learning to look at Central Arnhem Land paintings, in Outside In: Research engagements with Arnhem Land Art, exhib. cat. Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra.
Mundine, Djon, 1992, Philip Gudthaykudthay: Aspects of his World, in Painting and Sculpture from Ramingining: Jimmy Wululu and Philip Gudthaykudthay, exhib.cat. Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra.
Mundine, Djon, 2001, The Native Born: Objects and Representations from Ramingining, Arnhem Land, MCA & Bula’bula Arts
Neale, M., 1994, Yiribana, exhib. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
Perkins H. ‘Beyond the Year of Indigenous Peoples’ in Art and Australia 1993 Vol. 31 No 1 p 98-101.
Tweedie, P., 1985, This My Country, A View of Arnhem Land, William Collins Pty Ltd, Sydney.
Watson, Ken, 2004, Philip Gudthaykudthay, in Tradition Today: Indigenous Art in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, AGNSW, Sydney p 52
2010, Ramingining Men’s Safe House Murals (Greening Australia)