Dale Harding has transformed the City Road gateway to the Camperdown campus through a collection of new public artworks to reflect Australia’s ancient cultural roots, his own heritage, and the University’s history.
Dale Harding is a descendent of the Bidjara, Garingal and Ghungalu peoples of Central Queensland. His artwork fuses traditional and contemporary techniques to highlight opportunities for shared thinking between the University and the Indigenous culture surrounding it.
The LEES foyer is now home to Spine 1 (universe), an art installation that consists of petrified tree logs and wall paintings.
The materials, colours and techniques Dale employs tell as much about the history of Indigenous Australia as the artworks themselves. Dale used an atomiser to blow pigment onto the wall – this technique of applying pigment to spray was made famous by Australian artist Sidney Nolan, who learned about this method after seeing the rock art of Dale’s country at Carnarvon Gorge in 1948.
“The paintings are literally illustrations of my breath,” says Dale. “The petrified tree links to the Moreton Bay fig trees lining City Road which are important to the shared thinking about this site that houses Environmental Sciences. Many relations – scientific, historic, cultural, spiritual and philosophical – are embedded between the living trees and the petrified trunk."
The specific colours and materials Dale has used for each of his works also has meaning. The pigments used for the LEES building artworks – vivianite, lapis lazuli, azurite, Italian yellow ochre and hematite – reflect diverse histories, traditions and cultures.
“This pigment is all-but immovable in the natural environment and has been important to art histories the world over,” says Dale.
“I remember when Dale finished the work (for LEES), he told me he thought of it as a gift to the students,” says Professor Iain Young, Dean of Science. “For those inclined to engage with it, he envisaged them standing by a 25 million-year-old log, perhaps with a hand on it, looking upwards, so that they might experience a new relationship to time, the self and the universe.”
Dale’s artwork also seeks to connects Aboriginal country with the University’s buildings. This connection can be seen in the sandstone-based artwork, Spine 2.
“The work is an acknowledgement of the Great Dividing Range – the sandstone country that rises and falls along the spine of eastern Australia. Many of the University buildings have been built from this sandstone,” says Dale.
“My work seeks to make connections between the University campus and the sandstone that joins cultures and communities up and down the east of the continent,” he explains. “Here, two sandstone blocks sit side-by-side, with no hierarchy.”
A key part of Dale’s work is its integration with the landscape. The native planting component is a collaboration between Dale and the University’s Grounds team. It will be undertaken in March when the weather is cooler.
The new art installation outside the Carslaw Building, Spine 3 (radiance), is also complemented by botanical elements.
“I begin with a line of inheritance in rock art, but I am not bound to the rock art of my ancestors. Instead, my work is aligned to contemporary practice with different histories and new materials,” explains Dale.