MUMA – Dale Harding: Through a Lens of Visitation


muma – dale harding: through a lens of visitation

A descendant of the Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal peoples of central Queensland, Dale Harding’s multilayered practice political with a focus on family, community and place.

Through a Lens of Visitation explores the artist’s relationship to his mother’s Country, Carnarvon Gorge (Qld), and includes a selection of existing works and a major commission with his mother, textile artist, Kate Harding.

Monash University Museum of Art will present Dale Harding’s first in-depth exhibition from Wednesday 28 April until Saturday 26 June 2021.

Harding’s early works give visual expression to the histories of brutality and discrimination against Aboriginal communities.  Over recent years and successive bodies of work, Harding has sought to move focus from efforts to document the oral histories of his Elders towards seeking new forms for sharing material and environmental knowledges.

Much of Harding’s work is motivated by the cultural inheritances of his families – these originate in the Fitzroy Basin and Central Queensland Sandstone Belt of Queensland. These inheritances are expressed in continuation of the artforms and knowledges that live in the cultural landscapes of the region. 

‘I propose that spectators are an auxiliary motivation for living cultural lives and that contemporary art is an extension or continuation of the home lives and social lives of communities. This is a challenge I propose for myself and those around me’, says Dale Harding.

A new commission involves a first-time collaboration with Kate Harding, a textile artist who since 2008 has employed quilt making to tell her stories of family, culture and Country. Comprising several new quilts by Kate and painterly responses undertaken by Harding across various mediums this series of works will reflect on cultural knowledge and practices as they are exchanged and transposed across generations, gender, materials and disciplines.

Together with this new project, a series of existing works, including Harding’s iconic What is theirs is ours now (I do not claim to own), 2018, from the QAGOMA collection will also be shown. This work marks Harding’s final use of Reckit’s blue (a whitening laundry product widely used in British colonies) and will appear alongside Blue ground/dissociative, 2017, a work that the artist considers as its precursor, and which is performative in its making.

Introducing a colour like Reckitt’s Blue into the vocabulary of a long-practised form has precedents in Aboriginal history, even as it engages narratives of settler culture, government control and the domestic servitude that arrived with it. With each gesture and move in his work, Harding takes care to learn and understand the protocols that have surrounded the histories of his materials and methods – preserving these rooted pasts at the same time that he seeks to understand them in a new way and bring the untold histories of his family and his community into the future.

Through a Lens of Visitation will also feature the multi-panel Untitled (Private Painting H1), 2019, made with the participation of Harding’s cousin Haley Matthew and commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation.  This monumental multi-panel work speaks to the intersections Harding creates between cultural knowledge and Western art history. The serial nature of the work, and its use of gallery white to obfuscate the ochre painting and its embedded cultural knowledge, creates what the artist refers to as a ‘constructive mode of resistance’: one that observes the synergies of previously parallel histories.

The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication, Through a lens of visitation.  Senior art scholar Dr Nancy Underhill will illuminate the synergies between Sidney Nolan and Harding’s practice, and senior curator Dr Deborah Edwards will consider the influence of Aboriginal rock art on Margaret Preston’s notion of Australian art that could embrace Australia’s Indigenous and settler histories, and on the place of gender with regard to art and the home.  Writings also by Dr Jackie Huggins and Dr Ann Stephen.  

Dale Harding is an artist of national and international significance. He has participated in major exhibitions around the country including the 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennials in 2017, The National in 2017 and the TarraWarra Biennial in 2018. Overseas, he has participated in the Gwangju, Liverpool and Lyon Biennials and Documenta 14.

Curated by MUMA’s Senior Curator, Hannah Mathews, Dale Harding: Through a Lens of Visitation continues the much anticipated and celebrated survey exhibition series that presents the practices of significant mid-career artists in Australia. The exhibition will continue onto the new Chau Chak Wing Museum at the University of Sydney later in 2021.

Dale Harding: Through a Lens of Visitation opens 28 April – 26 June 2021 at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Ground Floor, Building F, Monash University,

Caulfield Campus, 900 Dandenong Road, Caulfield East.