SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA.- The MCA presents the first major solo exhibition of one of Australias most respected artists, Paddy Bedford. Demonstrating Bedfords powerful command of painting, the exhibition covers the span of his practice, tracing the development of his motifs and techniques over the past eight years. Paddy Bedford is a Gija elder from the Warmun region of the north east Kimberley, born around 1922 on Bedford Downs Station. As a senior law man, he has been involved in painting as part of ceremony all his life, although he only began painting for exhibition in 1998 after fellow artist Freddy Timms set up the Jirrawun Aboriginal Art group at Rugun (Crocodile Hole).
Despite his relatively brief career, Bedfords artistic output has been remarkably prolific and consistently innovative, which is evident in his absolute facility with the medium and his subject matter. He is one of only eight Indigenous Australian artists to have been selected to create a site-specific work for the Quai Branly Museum in Paris and is represented in a number of major Australian and international collections.
Bedfords body of work is arguably one of the most concentrated and compelling in contemporary Australian painting. He experiments freely with colour, form and pictorial space in his paintings, ranging from his early, densely patterned panels of red, yellow and black ochres, to his recent, expansive canvases in black and white, interspersed by vivid gouaches on paper.
Bedfords paintings depict the bones of the landscape in which he has spent a lifetime. They combine important family dreamings such as emu, turkey and cockatoo with country he travelled in his days mustering cattle: from hills, creeks, caves and waterholes, to roads, homesteads and stock camps. The paintings often act as visual accounts of oral histories, relating the interaction of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the Kimberley. These histories are conveyed in a beautifully austere and minimal visual language, the elegance of which often masks turbulent or violent events.
Bedford continues and develops the distinctive 'Turkey Creek' or East Kimberley style of painting. His expanses of plain ochre ringed by white dots, sparse lines and bold, rounded shapes recall the minimal approach of artists such as Rover Thomas, Queenie McKenzie and Jack Britten.
Qantas is continuing its strong support of the MCA as major sponsor of Paddy Bedford exhibition. Qantas involvement is as sponsor of the exhibition during its time at the MCA and on its subsequent national tour to the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Bendigo Art Gallery and University Art Museum at the University of Queensland.