16 January – 5 April, 2021
Presented by Artspace and Sydney Festival, djillong dumularra features the work of Carol McGregor (Wathaurung, Kulin Nation) and Judy Watson (Waanyi), two Brisbane-based Aboriginal Australian artists working with historical and contemporary material to illuminate the continuing strength of Indigenous culture. In Wathaurung and Waanyi respectively, djillong – meaning tongue of land – and dumularra, flowing water, together evoke the living connection to Country and cultural memory that defines their distinct approaches to artmaking.
McGregor uses ephemeral natural fibres, paint, clay, metal and paper. Her recent art practice also involves the revival of the traditional possum skin cloak as an art form and a way to strengthen individual and communal identities. Included in the exhibition is Wreath for Oodgeroo, 2020, a possum skin cloak depicting native plants found on Minjerriba (Stradbroke Island, Queensland) to honour the leadership and insight of black rights activist, poet, artist, environmentalist and educator Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker). Commissioned by Artspace as part of djillong dumularra, McGregor is also collaborating with members of the La Perouse Aboriginal Community to create a new collective possum skin cloak that will remain with the Community in perpetuity.
Watson engages with place, memory, collections and archives to reveal the impact of colonialism and discrimination against Aboriginal people, and to celebrate the strength of Aboriginal cultural practice. Her major new installation, skullduggery, draws on 1930s correspondence between Matron Kerr from Burketown Hospital in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum (now Wellcome Collection, London) trading Australian Aboriginal ancestral remains. Watson’s fabric works – stained, dyed, layered and left with the impression of objects and bodies – bearwitness to critical social issues from the destruction of cultural sites and water as a threatened resource to the current global pandemic.
Harnessing shared knowledge across time and place and drawing on the strength of matrilineal connections in particular, McGregor and Watson both engage in processes of collaborative creation and reflection to present a series of works that resonate across the gallery and beyond.
Carol McGregor is of Wathaurung, Kulin Nation and Scottish descent and works across media including ephemeral natural fibres, paint, clay, metal and paper. Her recent art practice involves the revival of the traditional possum skin cloak as an art form and a way to strengthen community and individual identities. She has worked extensively with Aboriginal communities facilitating workshops, teaching and sharing the knowledge and skills around possum skin cloak making.
McGregor’s work has been seen at national venues, including the National Portrait Gallery and Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Canberra; Institute of Modern Art, Museum of Brisbane, State Library and Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane; National Art School, Sydney; New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale; and internationally at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada; Recent solo exhibitions include Art of the Skins: un-silencing and remembering, Griffith University, Brisbane, 2019; Repositories of Recognition, Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, University of Virginia, USA; and Sistas and Grannies, Tandanya Aboriginal Art Gallery, Adelaide, 2017. McGregor is a graduate of the unique Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art Program at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane, where she is now the Program Leader.
Born in Mundubbera, Queensland, Judy Watson is a Brisbane-based artist whose Aboriginal matrilineal family is from Waanyi country in northwest Queensland. Watson’s process evolves by working from site and memory, revealing Indigenous histories, and following lines of emotional and physical topography that centre on particular places and moments in time. Spanning painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture and video, her practice often draws on archival documents and materials such as maps, letters and police reports, to unveil institutionalised discrimination against Aboriginal people.
Exhibiting extensively since the 1980s, Watson co-represented Australia at the 1997 Venice Biennale. Her work is held in major Australian and international collections including the National Gallery of Australia; all Australian state galleries; Tate Modern, London; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan; St Louis Art Museum, USA; British Museum, London; Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, England; Library of Congress, Washington, USA; and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, University of Virginia, USA. Significant solo exhibitions have been held recently at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, England, 2020; and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2018.
Writing commissioned for djillong dumularra, featuring texts by Claire G. Coleman, Jazz Money, Ellen van Neerven and Teila Watson.
Claire G. Coleman is a Noongar woman whose family have belonged to the south coast of Western Australia since long before history started being recorded. She writes essays, verse and fiction unpacking the effect of colonisation on Indigenous lives.
Jazz Money is an award-winning poet and filmmaker of Wiradjuri heritage, currently based on the beautiful sovereign lands of the Darug and Gundungurra nations. Her poetry has been published widely and reimagined as murals, installation and film.
Ellen van Neerven is an award-winning author, editor and educator of Mununjali (Yugambeh language group) and Dutch heritage. They write fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, and play football on unceded Turrbal and Yuggera land.
Teila Watson is a Birri Gubba and Kungalu/Gangalu Murri woman born and raised in Brisbane. Writing and performing as ANCESTRESS, her respect and understanding of Murri knowledges, First Nations self-determination, and the continuation of culture, informs her artistic endeavours and fuels her many passions.
Commissioned as a response to Watson's work of the same title, skullduggery stems from her research into the early 1930s theft of a skull and king plate from the grave of Aboriginal man Tiger, known as ‘King of the Mines’ of Lawn Hill near the Gulf of Carpentaria in northwest Queensland. Performed at Artspace by the Jannawi Dance Clan as part of Carol McGregor and Judy Watson's djillong dumularra.
Artspace and Sydney Festival Present djillong dumularra: Carol McGregor and Judy Watson
The La Perouse Aboriginal Community Cloak initiated by Carol McGregor has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.