Dale Harding and Jordan Upkett

Memory 2018 – Tarrawarra From Will to Form

“As a Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal man Dale Harding is of the land in Central Queensland. Stories of becoming are familiar in Aboriginal concepts of country. For Harding this is Yoondhalla, meaning ‘one in the one place’, a concept that speaks of the interconnectedness of everything, the shared substance of will that we draw from and pour back into at the same time. Here, in a forty-metre wall drawing, Harding brings up the earth from his grandmother’s Garingbal country in the Carnarvon Gorge area, carrying the will of the land with him from Central Queensland to TarraWarra. Harding and his young cousin Jordan each engrave a memory of the Carnarvon Gorge’s undulations onto the Vista Walk’s eastern wall that reflect the ridgeline visible through the windows opposite. This collapsing of space and time is extended through the stencilling of local flora using the vibrant earth of elsewhere. The red Ghangalu earth is mixed with saliva and blown and rubbed into the Museum’s wall, becoming a vast field of colour, which both folds into and transcends the aspirational language of American colour field paintings. Freed from an objective context the pigment can resonate and emanate in itself.”

– From Will to Form, 2018 Biennial Catalogue by Emily Cormack

Whilst on my study abroad in Australia, I saw this piece at the Tarrawarra gallery by Dale Harding and Jordan Upkett. After my week 8 crit session around the significance of having the language of the storytelling be something which isn’t accessible to an anglophone audience, it reminded me of the experience I had with the wall piece at this museum.

The curator explained to us that there was a story being told in the piece, but that it has an important cultural significance to the artists Aboriginal community, and there were only certain aspects he was allowed to tell and explain to an outsider.

What I felt in having a visual impact but knowing there was something beyond the visuals that I didn’t necessarily have access to. To me this created an interesting experience with the piece, I could appreciate it in its formal qualities but was intrigued that there was something deeply personal that I will probably never fully understand. So my relationship with the piece will evidently be different from what the artists experience, which will also differ from what a general audience experiences compared to an audience from the same Aboriginal community as the artists.

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