Paddy Bedford at the MCA (2006/2007)
Published Wednesday, 6 December 2006This December, the MCA presents the first major solo exhibition of one of Australia’s most respected artists, Paddy Bedford.
Demonstrating Bedford’s powerful command of painting, the exhibition covers the full span of his career, tracing the development of his motifs and techniques over the past eight years. Paddy Bedford is a Gija elder from the Warmun region of the north east Kimberley who, as a senior law man, has been involved in painting as part of ceremony all his life.
Although, he only began painting on canvas for exhibition eight years ago after fellow artist Freddy Timms set up the Jirrawun Aboriginal Art group at Rugun (Crocodile Hole) in 1997. At the time he was around 76 years old. Despite a relatively brief career, Bedford’s artistic output has been remarkably prolific and consistently innovative, evidence of his absolute facility with the medium and his subject matter.
He is one of only eight Indigenous Australian artists to have been selected to create a site-specific work for the Quai Branly Museum in Paris and is represented in several major Australian and International collections. Bedford’s body of work is arguably one of the most concentrated and compelling in contemporary Australian painting. He experiments freely with colour, form and pictorial structure in his paintings, ranging from his early, densely patterned panels of red, yellow and black ochres, to his recent, expansive canvases in black and white, interspersed by vivid gouaches on paper. Depicting the bones of the landscape in which he has spent a life time,
Bedford’s paintings combine important family dreamings such as emu, turkey and cockatoo with roads, rivers, the living areas for traditional life and stock camp life, stock yards and country visited while mustering. They often act as visual accounts of oral histories relating to the intersection of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians’ lives, drawing on the artist’s own country and history. These histories are conveyed in a beautifully austere and minimal visual language, the elegance of which often masks turbulent events.
Bedford continues and develops the distinctive 'Turkey Creek' or ‘East Kimberley’ style of painting. His expanses of plain ochre with a few well chosen shapes and sparse lines marked by white dots recall the minimal approach of artists such as Rover Thomas and the strong lines and rounded forms of artists such as Queenie McKenzie and Jack Britten.
A major publication accompanies the exhibition featuring essays by art historian Michiel Dolk and Aboriginal academic and commentator Marcia Langton Dolk. It includes the key stories for the paintings as recounted by Bedford himself, a Gija glossary, detailed information on the sites in Bedford’s work by linguist Frances Kofod and a catalogue raisonné of Bedford’s work since 1998.
References on this site to Paddy Bedford can also be found at:
Sourced from a Press Release, 2006