by Jonathan Jones
This exhibition celebrates two visionary Wiradjuri/Waradgerie artists of national significance: Michael Riley (1960–2004) and Lorraine Connelly-Northey (b1962).
Born in Dubbo in northern Wiradjuri country, the late Michael Riley is recognised as one of Australia’s most important landscape and portrait photographers and filmmakers. As a founding member of Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative (1987) and Blackfella Films (1992), Riley was pivotal in the establishment of the urban Aboriginal art movement. In 2006 he was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. Ngabinbiyi dulmarra (measured pressure)includes his key photographic series Sacrifice(1992),flyblown(1998) and his iconic seriescloud(2000), along with his experimental 1993 film Quest for country. Also included in the exhibition is a digital version Yarns from the Talbragar Reserve(1998), created with permission from the Michael Riley Foundation.
Born off country, Lorraine Connelly-Northey is connected to Gundagai in southern Waradgerie country and creates objects and installations with discarded materials associated with the pastoral industry to reference both her European and Waradgerie heritage. Connelly-Northey has exhibited widely, maintaining traditional forms such as bush bowls and bags to speak Aboriginal innovation. Her work is held in many collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and the National Gallery of Australia. Several major existing works feature in this exhibition, accompanied by a series of new works that Connelly-Northey has created, including a set of narrbang-galang made from ring lock wire often used for fencing. Connelly-Northey is part of the UTS Insearch South-East Aboriginal Arts Initiative.
Through varied mediums and techniques, both artists depict Wiradjuri identity, capturing the enduring sense of beauty and the humour and strength amid decay and destruction that lie at its heart. Holding onto Wiradjuri stories, forms and country, Riley and Connelly-Northey help sculpt our understanding of what it means to be Wiradjuri today.
Ngabinbiyi dulmarra (measured pressure)is part of a long-term relationship and commitment between the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery and the Wiradjuri nation, with future events, workshops and exhibitions planned. The exhibition opening included a panel discussion with Connelly-Northey, Wiradjuri community leader and elder Uncle James Ingram, Professor of Indigenous Australian Studies at Charles Sturt University Sue Green, and curator Jonathan Jones.
Ngabinbiyi dulmarra (measured pressure): Michael Riley and Lorraine Connelly-Northeyis on display at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, New South Wales, over 10 November 2018 – 3 February 2019. Admission is free.