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Naomi Hobson

Identifies: Kaantju, Indigenous Australian
Language Group
: KuKu Kaantju | Umpila Pama Thumpunyu
Instagram: @Naomi_Hobson_Artist
Website: www.naomihobsonartist.com.au

Naomi Hobson is a multi-disciplinary artist who resides on the banks of the riverbeds where her grandparents were born. Her residence is an old tin shed that was once her village church.

Her colourful abstract compositions act as a link between individuality and a shared identity. Her continual inspiration for her painting is the vast traditional lands of her ancestors surrounding the town of Coen in Queensland and her culture. Recently, Hobson has been inspired by the rich cultural diversity she witnessed firsthand while exploring village life, rural farmlands and the organised urban chaos throughout Southeast Asia. Hobson uses photography to give an insight into the real-life characters in her community that are mostly unseen and misrepresented in mainstream viewpoints of Aboriginal Australia - while her ceramics are a creative manifestation of her cultural spiritual belief system.

Coen is a small township of 300 people at the bottom of the McIlwraith Ranges (part of the Great Dividing Range) surrounded by the east coast of Cape York Peninsula, rainforest and open wooded country, with many river systems that snake down to the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef. The local clans include Kaantju, Umpila, LamaLama, Ayapathu, Wik Mungkan and Olkola.

The landscape of Coen is also imbued with a marked political history. Since European settlement Aboriginal people have maintained a connection to their country through working on pastoral properties. Hobson’s grandfather was employed as a stockman for a European family, while other local indigenous people worked as farmhands (cooking, cleaning, gardening, baby-sitters) for no financial reward. Further, Hobson’s family have been active in indigenous land rights and reform movements in the effort to return traditional lands and on social and economic reforms to her Cape York community of Coen. Through her art, Hobson continues her family tradition of political and social engagement. Every brushstroke expresses the innate embeddedness of cultures and country in her paintings. However, this specific link to place is brought about through a keen sense of her own individuality. 

Hobson states:

I create ART in my own personal space where I feel most comfortable including my back veranda, on the streets of Coen, in the dry riverbeds, on the banks of my childhood fishing places as well as at the campsites that my families have lived and spent time for thousands of years. I will take time to look at the miniature things, the tiny little things that nature hides.

My aboriginality is what grounds me. Through art I get to freely express all of this. I can share my creative freedoms in a contemporary way. 

My style also reflects my individuality... I want my work to tell my stories in an innovative way, I want to introduce new work, to maintain a point of difference, I am wary to re-define and not recycle. 

While Hobson is quick to point out she has been exploring her art practise since her teenage years, in 2007 Hobson commenced her journey and now her work has been acquired by national and regional institutions including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Bendigo Art Gallery, Shepparton Art Museum, HOTA, Home of the Arts, Surfers Paradise, Caloundra Regional Gallery, Caloundra, Redcliffe Art Gallery, Redcliffe, Moreton Bay, Araluen Arts Centre: Art Galleries and Theatre, Alice Springs, Cairns Performing Arts Centre, Cairns, Cairns Art Gallery. Hobson’s work is held in significant public and private collections nationally and internationally.

Original Action

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I grew up with love and respect all around me. I still see this and it makes me feel a responsibility to show my people in a positive light. My art reflects my Country, my culture, and my people. I use photography to give my people a voice from the perspective of a black person speaking with black people.

Being from the community and sharing life’s experiences with Cape York people, there is an intrinsic trust and oneness that exists in these photographs. While the camera is always present, it is also invisible - we just talk and capture the essence of the moment.

Adolescent Wonderland rejects stereotypes in mainstream culture that link ‘negativity’ and ‘badness’ to the colour of our skin. When some people see young and black they see fear but I see hope, light and confidence.

This series of photographs explores the inherent energy of young people expressing their individuality, inner beauty, bravery, and strength. There is so much to learn from the process of accepting self, and this constant and persistent search by our youth of ‘how to be’ in this world. I wanted to convey this by letting them lead their own narratives and confront misconceptions about how they are represented.

Today, our young people are immersed in social media so they have a much broader sense of global cultures than every generation before them. Within my community there is a constant and persistent search of belonging and identity - a search for a much deeper engagement with the world lead by our young people.

I see a future in my young people, and for my community, a story of resilience. These young people know exactly who they are! they’re not going to take being misrepresented and generalised! They want to inspire, seek adventure and give love.  When I was working on Adolescent Wonderland there was something in my youth that was calling out to me, it felt really special, I knew that it was a special issue and so very important for me to capture the pinnacle of being young and black and positive, to have their trust and engagement in this series allowed the youth to shine, not as subjects but as real people. They can be larger than life and creative; they see you and now they want you to see them, their truth - who they are, everything honest and grounded in their culture.

I want people to look at these works and see this is a new thing. Their time in the world is now.

25.05.2021

Take a Seat

I just came from my grandmother’s place, she live down the bottom end of town. I left my guitar there last night after partying at Dwayne's place. I went to collect it this morning to take it home, that's where I'm heading now, home but you wanna photo first?

- Lee

26.05.2021

Blue Bird

This fence is too high, why they make it like that? I should try and climb it, see how far I can get before they see me climbing it. When I get to the top I'll jump over. I feel like a bird in a cage right now.

- Mark

Young Love

This is Kurt, my boyfriend. We been going out for nearly 12 months now. Kurt is from Pormpaaraw. You know his family? They the Shortjoe mob... that's his mob now, from the west coast, Cape.

- Ratarni

27.05.2021

Kid Next Door

I'm just chilling out here next door hiding from Mum because she wants me to cut the grass at our place but I don't feel like it. So I came next door to hide from her but she's not silly. I think she knows I'm here.

– Chastyn

Chill

I'm heading to the river, it's so hot at the house. I got my floater and I'm meeting the other girls soon to all go swimming. I can't wait to get there and just relax and chill by the river with my friends.

- Melita

28.05.2021

The Birthday Skirt

Do you see my skirt? I love it! I’m wearing it now but I think I'll wear it again to Puchaanu's party coming up soon.

- Donna

Time Joe

What time is it? We can't take too long for a photo! We have to go catch the shop before it closes at four today. I need my supplies for tonight and tomorrow. On the weekend tomorrow shop will be closed.

- Jimmy

29.05.2021

The Rainbow Twins

You see our wigs? Donna brought us these to have fun with! I always wanted to wear a wig, and now Ada have one too. Ada is always trying to copy me, aye Ada.

– Lexcine

Not even Lexcine, you always trying to copy me!

- Ada

The Good Sister

Laine is my little sister, she always wants me to take her for a ride on my bike down the street, and back. This is her bike but it's too big for her little legs to ride yet. So, I take her for a ride after school and teach her at the same time how to ride her bike.

- Katarna

30.05.2021

Footage collected by Naomi Hobson with the support of Kalan Enterprises. Edited by Tarnanthi, Art Gallery of South Australia

Touring

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Penrith Regional Gallery, 2022

Naomi Hobson, 2018-22. Installation view, 52 ACTIONS, Penrith Regional Gallery, Sydney. Photo: Document Photography