Can you tell us about what materials, symbols and thematics are present in Wall Composition on Darumbal (2022)?
Thematically, Tunuba (Fitzroy River) is central to all the thinking and the composition. It’s been central to the conversations with the local elderhood, and also here in the museum, around what is relevant and what’s of interest to promote. So, I had begun the work by plotting out a few different illustrations of Tunuba, and from there, I built a range of different figures and looser forms on top of that.
It’s important to note that this painting is an extension of my other paintings, including the one that was at the Queensland Art Gallery commissioned in 2017. In terms of compositionally and the way of approaching the artwork, it echoes to that work in terms of the movement and the flow along the wall, as well as in the movement from one end of the wall, across and down the corridor. The ultramarine blue also continues in this piece, though one key point is that the Queensland Art Gallery painting was made with a different product – Reckitt’s Blue.
So that one doesn’t exist anymore, but this one, at Rockhampton Museum of Art, will continue to live on, in the place of that one.
What was does it mean to paint your piece on RMOA’s walls?
I’ve been quite obvious in the references to rock art, and in the figures and forms that I’ve illustrated. So, it does have that foundation informed by Queensland’s cultural heritage, and particularly the central Queensland landscape.
Not only does it begin in rock art, paintings also begins in the familiar ways of marking and telling story in-place. That further transfers through to other art historical references, like frescoes and the ideas of marking a place which we consider a good place to be. So, there is a lineage there in marking directly onto the walls. It begins here in central Queensland, but it can translate to places like Italy, through to other religious, cultural and artistic lineages, and then come back.
How has community and history inspired this piece?
That is a conversation that I’d have in person mostly in dialogue with Darumbal community. Because I’m here on Darumbal country, and RMOA’s relationships are so strong with the local leadership and community, my interest is to prioritise and immediately put forward local stories. My parents, my grandparents’ territories are also west of here, and on the same river systems. So, my priority is to just stay local here. And there’s other times when I can speak about my own ancestry.
The work features some tree forms, local botanical figures and other references to Rockhampton’s social history along the rumble. It also makes reference to the whole region and many of our family networks – things like railway work, sugar cane work, women in domestic spaces. Their place on the wall might spur visitors into picking up a reference, and reinforce those histories in our families and community.
And there’s still lots of work to be done in this conversation. Especially in the establishment and continuing discussion around topics like cultural heritage management, Aboriginal determination over lands and waters, as well as access and visibility in governance and political conversation. So, if there’s a very strong intent for the local community to feel identified or accessible to my work, that is the upmost, key importance to me – that the work has relevancy in the community.
D Harding’s Wall Composition on Darumbal can be viewed inside the newly refurbished Rockhampton Museum of Art.
The commission is courtesy of funds provided to the Rockhampton Museum of Art from the Commissioning Collective 2021.