“I like nonsense -- it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope... and that enables you to laugh at all of life's realities.” Dr Seuss.
John Murray is a professional Artist living and working in Lightning Ridge, in the far north west of NSW Australia. The Ridge is known worldwide as the home of the Black Opal. John has been painting and exhibiting in the Ridge and surrounding areas since 1983 and opened his own gallery in 1992.
John's work has been described as photo-realism and he is well known and loved for the humour and whimsy he portrays. The use of birds and wildlife to parallel human situations combined with vivid, rich colour makes his paintings very distinctive and striking. The fact that he constantly draws on everyday situations, human folly, and places and scenes that are a familiar part of life in the bush gives his art an appeal that defies age or culture.
You'll find John's art has something that everyone can relate to and enjoy.
A monster of Aboriginal
mythology, the bunyip was the subject of traditional beliefs and stories
in many parts of Australia. Its name varied according to tribal nomenclature,
but its appearance and habits were essentially the same in many eastern
regions of the continent. In general it lived in the depths of lagoons
and water-holes, emerging on moonlit nights to capture and devour any
luckless human prey that came within reach. It had a particular fondness
for Aboriginal women. From their earliest contacts with the natives, European
settlers began to hear tales of the bunyip. For a considerable part of
the nineteenth century many colonists and some scientists believed in
the actual existence of the monster.
We lived very sumptuously and in peace for many months at this place and then went to the borders of another lake called Moodewarri; the water of which was perfectly fresh, abounding in large eels, which we caught in great abundance. In this lake, as well as in most of the others inland, and in the deep water rivers, is a very extraordinary amphibious animal, which the natives called Bunyip, of which I could never see any part except the back, which appeared to be covered with feathers of a dusky grey colour. It seemed to be about the size of a full grown calf, and sometimes larger; the creatures only appear when the weather is very calm and the water smooth. I could never learn from any of the natives that they had seen either the head or tail, so I could not form a correct idea of their size; or what they were like.. Here on the Barwon River, Victoria, the Bunyip - the extraordinary animals I have already mentioned - were often seen by the natives who had a great dread of them, believing them to have supernatural power over human beings, so as to occasion death, sickness, disease and such misfortunes. They have also a superstitious notion that the great abundance of eels in some of the lagoons where animals resort, are ordered for the Bunyip's provision; and they therefore seldom remain long in such neighbourhoods after having seen the creature.
Source: John Morgan, Life and Adventures of William Buckley. Hobart 1852 (Buckley escaped from Lieut. Colonel Collins camp at Indented Head, lived for thirty-two years among the natives of the Geelong district; finally appearing before John Batman's party to become no more a wanderer.)
Australians have a long tradition of being 'bits of dags', which loosely translated means that they just like to have fun. Irreverent humour verges on being downright rude and uncouth but generally it is all quite harmless and, their saving grace is that Australians are very good at laughing at themselves.
As John Murray reveals in his delightful Boss Cocky, ( a cockie is farmer - also a cockatoo ) an individual is most likely to be scorned for taking themselves too seriously and rising above their station. Make sure to open up Toilet Humour and the delightful Emu prints to marvel at Murray's sharp wit.
Australian aboriginal stories describe the bunyip as an evil spirit which dwells in creeks, swamps, and billabongs. The bunyip's loud bellowing cry terrifies the aborigines.
They avoid water sources where they believe a bunyip might live. Some stories suggest the bunyip emerges at night principally to prey on women and children as well as animals. Many white settlers also claimed encounters with the bunyip. While descriptions of the bunyip vary, most portray a creature with a hairy horse-like head and large body. Aboriginal stories about the bunyip may reflect oral traditions of the diprotodon, a rhinosceros-sized herbivore. Diprotodon was the largest marsupial ever to have existed.
Diprotodon is believed to have become extinct between fifteen
and twenty thousand years ago. Memories of encounters between the aborigines
and diprotodon might have been passed down through the centuries. Modern
encounters with the bunyip require a different explanation. One is that
the diprotodon still exists. Another is that a large unknown animal is
responsible for the sightings. A prosaic explanation is that sightings
represent encounters with stray seals in inland waterholes and rivers.
Another is that Bunyips are actually brigands or bums hiding in the outback.
The Bunyip features prominently in children's literature in Australia.
The word "bunyip" has also taken on the meaning of "imposter" in Australian
More about the Bunyip
Long before the white man came the natives believed in the existence of some dark creature of monstrous size that lived in the swamps, lagoons and billabongs of their tribal lands.
Their descriptions of it varied, but they were all in agreement in describing its shining, baleful eyes and its bellowing voice. It had a huge body, either covered with fur or feathers, and where its legs should have been there were flippers that threshed the water when it was angry.
It devoured human beings, coming upon them in silence and when least expected.
The natives I questioned about the bunyip always added, with some satisfaction, that it favoured women. In a drawing of the bunyip made by a Murray River native in 1848, the creature is depicted as having a body resembling that of a hippopotamus and a head like that of a horse.
However, another drawing made by a Victorian native showed it with the head and neck of an emu. Govenor La Trobe also made a drawing of a bunyip. He believed there were two kinds of bunyip - a southern and northern type. His drawing of the southern bunyip was sent to Tasmania, but has been lost. Source: Bunyips Never Whistle by Alan Marshall, Argus Magazine 14 December 1951
In Tristine Rainer's classic 'The New Diary' Rainer provides lots of suggestions about using portraiture in journals to come to terms with projections and humourous portraiture is one technique that can be used to bring people back to size.
Tall Poppy cutting (Tall poppy syndrome : the tendency to criticize successful people) is far too popular a past-time in Australia, but it is harmless to have some fun and use some zany characters to purge feelings about some figures, like the Boss Cocky who can be found trying to run an outback station or farm. Zany Australian bird and wildlife, both real and imagined, provides rich fuel for anyone interested in humour and whimsy and, with holidays approaching, it is the perfect time to devote some time to good natured frolics.
1.Try writing a portrait that incorporates a Bunyip or another mythological creature such as the 'Over Bird'. It lives in North Queensland and lays a square egg. Every time it drops one, it gives a mournful cry, 'Over'. Then there is the 'Oozlum Bird', a strange creature that flies around in ever-diminishing circles, until it diappears up it's rear end with a puff of smoke and a loud cry of 'Ozzlem'!
2. Create a fresh postage stamp of this mythical creature that terrorized Australians and send it here to Soul Food to post in a gallery that celebrates the Bunyip.
3. Make chocolates or ginger-bread biscuits in the shape of Bunyips.
4. If you are looking for wintery craft activities to help fill in your time and get you into the mood for Christmas, go no further than the Creativity Portal. Chris Dunmire has a wonderful collection of Winter Craft suggestions.