‘If the work doesn’t relate to your family and your community, then what’s the point?’, Harding asks.
Harding was born in 1982 in Moranbah, Queensland. The artist is a Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal man who currently lives and works in Brisbane, Queensland. Harding works with a variety of techniques and traditions including painting, installation and sculpture.
Recently, Harding has created wall-based art inspired by rock art sites in Queensland. ‘The landscape was the gallery that my ancestors knew’, the artist says. ‘Working directly on gallery walls is an acknowledgment and continuation of painting stories on sandstone walls.’
My name is Dale Harding. I'm an artist and I'm currently based in Brisbane, Queensland in Australia.
This particular space is for playing and mucking around. I do a lot of play in here at night time. When the city is doing their kind of social time and playtime, often it's a really great space to come in and play in here.
So yeah Friday and Saturday night in the studio is a delight. Particularly if you can hear parties and other things going on; I go it's a good place to be right here right now yeah.
Within our family my mum is a very skilled maker in many different media forms, embroidery and quilt making, and textile work so I was present as a little kid doing embroidery and cross-stitch.
My father's a non-Aboriginal man, and a man of agricultural background and a real passion for trees as plants and timber as a media and this is of great importance to who I am these days because the sensitivity and the care and an awareness of environmental presence comes to me for my father as well as my mum.
Because of mum and dad, art and media were just around me. My mother's parents: my grandfather was a Bidjara man and my grandmother was a Ghungalu woman. I was witness to the burden of the silence that was with my grandmother and our broader community in being refused recognition and being refused identification for who you are; and certainly, also for what your experience has been under the colonial dispossession in central Queensland.
'Bright-Eyed Little Dormitory Girl' is the work that I made in direct response to or seeking to access the lived experience that my grandmother had been describing to me of her girlhood being under the total control of the Queensland Government of the time.
The work consists of five very small sacs, which were previously used for the trade of millet seeds and that's important because the Aboriginal labour and Aboriginal lives were considered commodity. If the work doesn't relate to your family and your community then what's the point?
Two of my cousins have joined my art practice. They've met the art practice as their own cultural selves, as Aboriginal people with also a South Sea Island connection. As untrained artists, they're stepping into a space of contemporary art practice with their own cultural framework, which enables them to make sophisticated and thrilling, and surprising decisions in the processes of making art.
It excites me greatly for the contemporary art world to be able to have these spaces which is safe for cultural people to be themselves. I'm really fortunate as a newer artist in this immediate community to be able to bounce in and out of and share the space with the senior artists who were here.
A number of years ago, I was asked the question: why has there been so much innovation and movement in the Brisbane art-making particularly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander makers? And we in the conversation arrived that there's still something to push back against in the Brisbane psyche.
[Freja Carmichael]: There’s been a lot of inhumane activity acted on the land and how artists are exploring that in their practices is looking at the importance of country and what it means to both spiritually belong but also be physically away from country to.
[Dale Harding]: I came to work on gallery walls and making studies on the studio wall through an understanding that the landscape was the gallery that my forebears, my ancestors knew and so working directly onto the gallery walls was a deliberate acknowledgment and continuation of making story painting stories onto the sandstone walls of the space. For how I look at my work and who. I am, nature and the landscape are there as kind of work languages and what we understand is that the art practice and our cultural selves in central.
Queensland and where we are is inseparable. In my grandfather's language there's no word for love so to access a paradigm around nature and the environment, if there's no necessity to describe love you just do it, you just are, you just be it.
Well then nature and landscape and environment are just part of who you are and what you do.