SafARI Artist Profile - Dale Harding
Dale Harding is a Brisbane based, contemporary Indigenous artist selected for SafARI 2014. Harding’s work is poignantly reminiscent of colonial Australia and the associated experiences. Drawing from his descendence of the Bidjara and Ghungalu peoples of Central QLD, Harding creates thought provoking work from his family’s history. His fusion of historical family stories with his everyday life as a contemporary artist, confronts the audience with questions of our identity. His work creates an ongoing discussion of Australian culture through his exploration of historic materials and family history. We would like to thank Harding for his time, as we were able to conduct a phone interview to find out more about his work.
Harding completed his Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art with Honours and his work has received critical attention. Last year Harding was included in high profile exhibitions including String Theory: Focus on Contemporary Australian Art Museum of Contemporary Art and I still call Australia Home: Contemporary Art From Black Australia Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane.
What can we expect to see at SafARI?
I’m exhibiting at The Cross Art Project in Kings Cross. My work “punishment tree: Queensland Crucifix” is a floor-based installation comprised of steel poles and melted wax (about 1.6m squared and 70cm off the ground).
Tell us a bit about what inspired your body of work for the SafARI event?
This work is drawn from my family history and Indigenous heritage. It references the Queensland crucifix (colloquially “the punishment tree”) that was a method of torture. People would be punished regularly for resisting the authorities that were directing your every move.
How do you explore “the punishment tree”?
I recreated the device to represent poetic elements of wastage and time. The featured wax form is demonstrative of time being slowly passed away and wasted. The end result is a large pile of wastage on the floor.
What about practicing as a contemporary Indigenous artist? Can you tell us about the fusion of Indigenous heritage and contemporary living?
I see my practice as a continuation of culture that I experience here and now. I draw from my family heritage and my experiences of daily life here to create an extension of culture by using different means of expression.
What other mediums do you work with?
I do a lot of textile and embroidery work, also with carved timber. I work backwards really; I use materiality in a conceptual sense. The properties and histories of the material I use, feed into my concept. I sway away from clean manufactured materials as they have no authenticity.
What is the history of a material you’ve worked with?
My previous work “Bright Eyed Little Dormintory Girls” (2013) worked with the history of hessian sacs. As a young girl my Nana was forced to live in Government dormitories in the Missions. As a form of punishment, the girls were made to substitute their clothes for hessian sacs with holes cut for arms and head. The little girls had to pick up leaves in the yard of the dormitory in the boiling Central Queensland sun. My nana was actually hospitalized because the sac material caused abrasion on her skin. In my work I used fine mohair to sew detail around the neckline of hessian sacs, it was a metaphoric gesture to that pain.
What are your aims behind your work?
I hope to raise awareness. When people are exposed, it poses the question of: now you know, what are you going to do? I’m passing over the knowledge and sharing histories that people may not know. The audience is integral to bringing a work to life as they can create an ongoing discussion.
What is some advice you'd give aspiring artists?
By Jo Gilbert