Sometimes I get questions sent to me through this web site from students in high schools & universities about my cultural practice.
The most recent one was a lovely young woman named Justine.
She asked the perfect questions for me to answer so I thought I might add the Q & A here.
I hope it helps other students who wish to contact me in future when they read this blog entry :)
Q: could tell me about your artistic influences
A: Badimaya lore paintings in sand and found in cave art...also carved into rocks across my Badimaya home country which is the mid west of western Australia under the towns of Mount Magnet & Yalgoo.
I’m also influenced by Catholic religious artistic practices found in the Renaissance era in Europe.
Q: and inspiration behind your work,
A: I began painting portraits when I was young as a way to assist my family to find family who had been separated from us due through government policy up until 1973.
I also paint as a way to stop racism today as it’s the greatest enemy to artistic freedom in the world today and in that task I paint everything that occurs to me in my daily life through a kind of diary or as some have termed an auto-ethnographic practice.
I also admire the way in religious Catholic tradition that with icons in particular the local priests would take donations to make icons for the communities they were in.
The priest would hide and travel with these jewel encrusted icon with him if the village or community was destroyed so he could make that community again somewhere else using the jewels in another location.
I think it’s an influence because it talks about a European relationalism rather than survivalism to one’s culture and community that I can understand.
Relationalism as a term was first discussed with Mary Graham in this video here;
Q: whether you were influenced by particular artists,
A: Firstly my Mother and grandmother were major influences on my work as they were both discouraged to be artists even as they were from a very long line of matriarchal lore women to do art for themselves. My family use art to record beliefs and spiritual practices. Both of them were only ever encouraged to be the domestic servants to white people as was I when I was at high school back in 1981-86. They influenced me to persevere and to become interested in many many artistic techniques from an early age.
The other influences are in the multiple.
Mainly artists from the Renaissance artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Franz Hals, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and Raphael.
Other influences are multiple as I follow techniques more than styles or personality such as Goya, Ray Crooke, Gordon Bennett, Ai Weiwei and William Hogarth.
Q: themes or movements
Romanticism (not Jean-Jacques Rousseau because he was a racist)
The Badimaya Nations cultural renewal & ancient continual practice
Stories from people resisting racism towards First Nations people in ‘Australia’.
Stories that empower First nations People in ’Australia’
The First Nations sovereignty movement towards de-colonization and real land rights.
Anti-Empire literature (see below text attached for reference such as ‘Enlightenment Against Empire’ by Sankar Muthu, 2003 )
Themes would be;
the land & people and the relationship between both.
Ending every day racism
Ending paper genocide through art (meaning ending white washed history and literature using art)
Q:and which of your artworks that show these influences?
‘In our country’ (see below)
dealing with stereotypical racism about fair skinned First Nations people namely me...as I go back to my country.
I get a lot of racism from white people who think I’m on the band wagon to ‘get benefits’ from ‘calling’ myself ‘Aboriginal’ as they call my identity as a Badimaya woman but what they don’t know about me is that I’m a product of the ‘breeding them out’ program of assimilationist genocide & brainwashing that ‘white is right’ along with the forced removal of 3 generations of my family. I’m also fair skinned as a result of 2 rapes committed against my great grandmother and her mother by white colonialists.
I have an identity in fighting for real land rights and striving for decolonisation.
My first land rights & equal justice rally was when I was 10 years old.
I am known and accepted in my family & community.
In the painting it shows my ancestors before invasion and myself holding hands with them in my country near Goodingow and Warida.
I don’t consider myself an ‘Australian Aboriginal’ because I’ve separated myself from the governing system. I’m a Badimaya.
I wish you well with your education,
152.5 x 121.5 cm
Synthetic polymer paint and red ochre on canvas
61.0 x 61.2 cm
Synthetic polymer paint and red ochre on canvas
Julie Dowling was approached by Richard Walley to paint his portrait for the National Portrait Gallery Collection in Canberra., ACT.
The artist had refused all commissions to date as her art practice is based in
an auto-ethnographic process.
As Richard Walley is a distant cousin and has been known by the artist for over 20 years she accepted the commission.
The portrait took 3 sitting, two formal and one interview. All tolled the hours out together the portrait was completed in 2 weeks.
Since 2012 Dowling has been painting a series of informal chiaroscuro portraits of prominent in the film & theater arts who have supported social reform to stop the injustice of assimilation & racism of First nation People on the Australian continent & abroad.
One portrait, which was part of a series of six, was made of the actor Jack Thompson. the work was painted without a sitter. Julie Dowling was inspired instead after watching films and speeches by the actor in favour of First Nations land rights and social justice at a number of rally's aired on the internet and television.
The portrait was also bought by the National Portrait Gallery at the same time the Richard Walley portrait commission was almost completed.
STATION 1: JULIE DOWLING
Exhibition: 'Stations of the Cross', Westley Church, Perth, March 2015
Murlabaya – Becoming Dead (Is Condemned to Die)*
131 x 75.5cm
Acrylic, red ochre, mica gold and plastic on canvas
by Julie Dowling, Badimaya Nation
"I wanted to paint an image related directly to the viewer about those who are wholly innocent and fall in-between the cracks of the justice system in WA. I also reflect on deaths in custody for First Nation people in this country.
I believe there are alternatives to the incarceration system as it is today. I think prisons are instruments of torture and punish those living in poverty.
Most first nation inmates have criminal records because they cannot get jobs and pay fines. . Many inmates are mentally ill from being systematically abused. Many have suffered inter-generational trauma believing that the only stability they have in life is found within prison walls. It is tragedy that social pressures to conform to the dominant culture in Australia cause my people to be targeted by systemic discrimination and racism. This relationship between the first nations people and the arms of the state have a long history going back to colonial invasion.
It is ignored that many of my people do not even the English language and it is not their first language. Many First Nation Peoples in this country who are convicted because they say “yes” to accusations when asked about a crime without fully knowing what is happening to them. The criminal injustice system continues without showing any duty of care or fairness.
Many of my people have daily fears of bashed by police or when they are incarcerated by the guards who are paid to look after them. Many of my people have been in and out of ‘the system’ since they were young children. A large number started out as foster children with little or no connection to their cultural identity believing that they might find their kin ‘inside’.
My community is fully aware of disturbing realities where children as young as nine or ten years old are being housed in juvenile detention or moved without consent to adult prisons in Western Australia without the consultation of their parents, families or communities. It is little wonder that this cycle of despair leaves far too many first nations peoples in this country to take their own lives. Depression or other mental illness receives little or no adequate treatment in correctional facilities.
In this country, first nation peoples make up thirty percent of the prison population and yet we are but three percent of the generation population. Between the years 2000 and 2010, the rate of first nation women has increased by sixty percent making up 58.6 percent of all women in prison. Our children currently make up 48 percent of all juveniles in custody beginning their lives behind bars rather than learning and growing within the arms of families.
The Barnett Government now threatens to close nearly 150 remote Aboriginal communities in this state. Ironically there are plans to build more prisons.
In this painting I have shown there to be figures around the Wiru(spirit circle). Around the figure’s head, are the belly marks of goanna as well as multiple sets of hands symbolising his spirit reaching out for help. The figure’s fingers do not touch each other so help is beyond the subjects grasp.
There are symbols of bush fires, camp sites, jardi (goanna’s), emu’s. All are symbols of fast motion. The symbol of everlasting flowers is the only symbol for stillness.
At the base of the painting is representing the garden of Gethsemane as well as the spirit trees found in the south west of WA known as Nyining (in Noongar language). A Nyining becomes spiritual significant as it grows and more so if it’s lived longer than a human life."
Julie Dowling 2015
Represented by: Harvison Gallery
Image Credit: Don Dowling (no direct relation)
* Ref. Badimaya Dictionary: An Aboriginal Language of Western Australia, Bundiyana – Irra Wangga Language Centre, Geraldton 2014
* Incarceration Statistics found at http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/law/aboriginal-prison-rates
A new series of Icon's to a Stolen Child are at Harvison Gallery in Perth.
Check out the link here for more details;
'First Contact' misrepresentation of fair skinned mob as if a cup of tea…the add milk and it's still tea analogy;
I think being compared to a cup of tea comes from that tv show ‘First Contact’ and it isn’t telling the half of it.
I think it was such a passive show in general which didn’t hit wudjulahs hard enough about why we ARE fair looking in the majority of cases.
The reason I’m fair looking is from forced assimilation and rapes over 4 generations on a single line of women right to me.
I’m a product of the ‘breeding them out’ program and not a weak cuppa tea.
You can still interpret that into that analogy and I’ve had that thrown back in my face after confronting someone thinking it was a good analogy to try out in order to defend my life or the ‘appearance’ of it to a poxy racist.
I’m a litmus test and a secret spy to those I love, THAT’s all.
I sure hope the young woman who originally said that on ‘First Contact’ mentioned the rapes and forced relations with white men only ONCE to those gathered off camera because it sure wasn’t mentioned on film.
The truth is that
I loved my white grandfather but he met my grandmother while she was in an assimilation house set up by the Catholic Church who had to assimilate fair mob by racist laws back in the 1940’s.
It’s a miracle that they did love each other and he had to defend his kids from having them taken by force by authorities along side my Badimaya great grandmother WITH SHOTGUNS IN THEIR HANDS.
My white Irish Pavee grandfather passed away when I was 6 years old.
I think racism kills everyone because it’s emotional abuse of kids.
I’m not different or diverse as a fair skinned mob in itself.
I’m accepted by my own mob for who I am as Badimaya woman.
Those that aren’t accepted are in the extreme minority.
It’s only in the wudjulah (white) majority that I do get being fair skinned First Nation as being unacceptable with all the stereotypes flying thick and fast about fair mob exploiting THEM somehow. It’s a racism from them that says that my own mob accept fair mob because we somehow DO exploit with the darker mob’s tick of approval to get back at them for having so much power!?
It’s complex form of racism on the surface but it’s still racism because the wudjulah’s (non-First Nation people) forget completely about culture and about what love of family is.
Those that DO exploit their culture and family for more money in the majority white population are few & far between. They usually end up with HUGE jobs in wudjulah ‘government’ or in the ‘system’ to oppress their own mob (coercive tutors). These kinds of fair skinned mob get cut off from their family with only a narrow avenue to return through because they’ve chosen a path to be Jackie-jackies and coconuts (translated as Uncle Tom’s in Turtle Island).
I made this picture using computer graphics.
Does this fair skinned young woman look weak or passive about who she is or how she got here? I don’t think so.
If you're a survivalist with communism you can't be a relationalist living in Badimaya because they don't fit together.
You don't follow Badimaya lore so you aren't Badimaya and that's my point.
You can't walk into the last minute of a yarn and say you know the whole story....because you'd be 99% a liar.
That's relationalism...that's a totally different philosophy of life...it's not communism.
Thanks for reading this!
If you're trying to fit them both together for you're own First Nation then I wouldn't want to be ya! It's too hard to fit together for me.
I think you'll find the same outcome to the equation.
Survive using communism for 'survival' ....OR do you relate to your own kin....to just live right ....with the land... so that you don't hurt the chances to do that same...for your great grandchildren.