Exhibition organised and toured by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.
This is the first major solo exhibition of one of Australia’s most respected Indigenous artists and comprises more than 70 works.
Born around 1922 on Bedford Downs Station in the remote East Kimberley region of Western Australia, the artist passed away on 14 July 2007. Mr Bedford began painting on canvas and board in 1998 and his artistic practice since then was remarkable, prolific and consistently innovative and is reflected in his selection as one of only eight Indigenous Australian artists to create a site-specific work for the Quai Branly Museum in Paris. A senior lawman of the Gija people, he painted as part of ceremony all his life, and brought this wealth of symbolic, historical and technical knowledge to bear on his art.
Mr Bedford’s paintings relate the narratives of his mother’s and father’s country, combining the Dreaming stories of the cockatoo, bush turkey and emu with the topography of the land he regularly traversed as a stockman, including rivers, roads, rocks and waterholes. The artist also created paintings based on accounts of the often brutal interaction between Aboriginal people and white settlers in the early years of the twentieth century, the repercussions of which continue in the Kimberley today.
This exhibition demonstrates Mr Bedford’s powerful command of painting, and traces the development of his motifs and techniques over the past eight years. It includes a series of Bedford’s early, densely patterned panels of red, yellow and black ochres; a selection of his more recent black and white canvases, with their dramatic play between positive and negative space; and a range of his vivid gouache works, their fluid lines and bright colours revealing a spontaneous, playful dimension to the artist’s practice. Together they present a unique vision, drawing upon the specifics of Mr Bedford’s country and its history as well as connecting to the wider artistic and social concerns at play in Australia today.
This exhibition is supported by the Contemporary Touring Initiative through Visions of Australia, an Australian Government program and the Visual Arts and Crafts Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments. Major sponsor QANTAS.