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Judith Wright

Judith Wright | A wake (detail) 2011

Judith Wright | Australia b.1945 | A wake (detail) 2011 | Mixed media installation | 15 figures: installed dimensions variable | This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body | Purchased 2011. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Judith Wright | A wake (detail)

Judith Wright | A wake (detail)

b.1945 Brisbane, Qld | Lives and works in Brisbane

Judith Wright is well-known for works spanning painting, drawing, video and installation, often sustaining dialogues between different media. She came to her art practice from a background in classical dance, having performed with the Australian Ballet for four years, a history revealed in the performative aspects of her work. Often dealing with the impermanence and the vulnerability of life, recently, Wright has drawn on her enduring themes in new ways, making videos and figurative sculptural installations.

For ‘Contemporary Australia: Women’, Wright has made A wake 2011. Her first major figurative installation, it marks a new development in her long meditation on the loss of her daughter, who died shortly after birth many years ago. Wright says ‘the power of the shadow to conjure absence’ directed her to make A wake. The ancient Greeks associated shadows with the soul, and this is true of Wright’s musicians: their shadows are the soul of their music.

The title of the work also suggests that to be awake to the memory of the departed is the only way left to give them life — they persist in our memories as fleeting shadows: we glimpse them only out of the corner of our eye. Thus, these fantastical musicians are assembled to accompany, with pomp and ceremony, the passage to the afterlife: every shadow is a ghostly refrain of that original loss. Wright had previously collected antique masks for her works — in this work, she has gathered obsolete antique instruments that embody the memory of the music they once made. 

Selected solo exhibitions: ‘Judith Wright: Propositions II’, Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne, 2011; ‘Conversations’, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand, 2009, Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra, 2008 and University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane, 2008; ‘Judith Wright: Breath and Other Considerations’, Artspace, Mackay, Queensland, 2007; ‘Judith Wright: Selected Video Works 1997–2004’, Performance Space, Sydney, 2005.

Selected group exhibitions: ‘Drawn to Abstraction’, Jan Manton Art, Brisbane, 2011; ‘Contemporary Encounters’, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2010; ‘A Generosity of Spirit: Recent Australian Women’s Art’, Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Brisbane, 2010; ‘Love, Loss and Intimacy’, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2010.

Work for ‘Contemporary Australia: Women’

A wake 2011 | Mixed media installation | 15 figures: installed dimensions variable | This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body | Purchased 2011. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery