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Eewa Warnda – to give spirit.

By Sharne Wolff

For the month of March Michael Reid Gallery is exhibiting works from artist Julie Dowling’s private collection under the title Eewa Warnda – to give spirit. Each of these five works is painted in a mixture of acrylic and red ochre on canvas and is originally drawn from Dowling’s Warridah Sovereignty series ­­– first exhibited in 2004. Dowling is a Western Australian artist of the Badimaya/Yamatji language group in the south west of the State.  This is a series of family portraits of herself, her mother, twin sister Carol, her grandmother and her great uncle George.


While Dowling takes a lead from the traditional western portrait style, each of these canvases is painted with a background of bright, textured block colour overlaid with a text statement. When viewed together with the subtitle Dispossession Series these paintings are unquestionably political.  Dowling has said in the past that her paintings are like conversations her audience. Although the written sentiments vary from Uncle George’s firm, ‘Give me my land back’ to Nana Molly’s insistent, ‘I can’t pay for the land where my ancestors are buried’, the gaze of the sitters is tinged with an undercurrent of sadness.  These are intimate pictures of family members most dear to the artist. Her resilient subjects capture both memories of past injustice and a lack of optimism for the future.


Until March 30

Michael Reid Gallery, Elizabeth Bay

Pic: Julie Dowling Dispossession series: My Great Uncle George, 2004 acrylic and red ochre on canvas 120 x 100 cm. Courtesy the artist and Michael Reid Gallery.

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