A descendant of the Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal peoples, much of Dale Harding’s multilayered practice is motivated by the cultural inheritances of his families, who originate in the Fitzroy Basin and the sandstone belt of central Queensland. As the artist states: these inheritances are expressed in the continuation of the artforms and knowledges that live in the cultural landscapes of this region.
Harding’s works pay particular homage to the stories and presence of matrilineal figures in his family. Through a lens of visitation specifically explores the artist’s relationship to his mother’s Country of Carnarvon Gorge and includes a major new commission and first-time collaboration with his mother Kate Harding. A textile artist, who since 2008 has employed quilt-making to tell her stories of family, culture and Country, Kate has created several new quilts for the exhibition. Shown alongside painterly responses undertaken by Dale across various mediums, this body of works reflects on cultural knowledge as it is held, practiced and transposed across generations, gender and place.
Curated by Hannah Mathews, Senior Curator, Monash University Museum of Art, the exhibition also features a selection of existing works, including Untitled (Private painting H1), 2019, from the Monash University Collection. Harding has observed that while many of his early works give visual expression to the histories of brutality and discrimination against Aboriginal communities, over recent years and successive bodies of work he has sought to move focus from efforts to document the oral histories of his Elders towards seeking new forms for sharing material and environmental knowledges. Through a lens of visitation acknowledges this intent and seeks to trace its path.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication of writings by senior women scholars that reflect on the history of Carnarvon Gorge and speculate on its resonances within Australian modernism. This book extends Harding’s commitment—demonstrated in both his academic work as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, and as an internationally exhibiting artist—to grow a discourse around Indigenous modernisms, cultural practice and contemporary art.
Dale Harding: Through a Lens of Visitation is co-produced by the Chau Chak Wing Museum, University of Sydney, and Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne and supported by Arts QLD.
Featured image: Dale Harding, Blue ground/dissociative 2017. Installation view, Dale Harding: Through a lens of visitation, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2021. Photo: Andrew Curtis