Sophie Gannon Gallery is pleased to present Reminiscence, Judith Wright’s 10th solo exhibition at the gallery.
Encompassing acrylic paintings on Japanese paper and canvas, small bronzes and a life-sized sculptural assemblage, this suite of work sees the acclaimed Brisbane-based artist looking back over four decades of art making and the preoccupations that have driven her diverse practice.
Principal among these has been her sustained focus on the human body as a site of subjectivity through which to explore the dialectics of innocence and experience, fragility and resilience, loss and grace.
Prior to her training as a visual artist, Wright was a dancer with the Australian Ballet. As such, her approach to the figure has always been psychological, theatrical and a little surreal – as these new works confirm.
In her paintings, Wright delineates the contours of each subject in a monumental yet minimalist style. Intentionally flat and set hard-up to the picture plane, her outlined bodies are elemental shapes filled with colours warm and cool: bronze, brown, olive, oxblood, aubergine, lavender and grey.
Heads, hands and legs predominate. There are no faces or defining features – apart from a ballerina bun. Superimposed or in silhouette, these shape-shifting bodies hover on the threshold of visual legibility and abstraction.
Working across a range of sizes, Wright paints directly onto paper, causing it to gently crinkle and crease as it accepts the pigment. Evoking parchment supports such as vellum, these spare yet hypnotic paintings speak to the body as an instrument of memory and a storehouse of selfhood.
Wright’s two-dimensional works are complemented by a witty series of small bronzes and a life-sized sculptural assemblage. The former reimagines the body sectioned into parts, with torsos missing heads, limbs and ‘dangly bits’, while the latter makes a subtle statement about the empowering nature of vision.
“All great artists have cultural relevance, they are both of their time and sit outside their time. As a senior female artist in Australia working across the realms of abstraction, figurative poeticism and inter-media, Judith has been fearless in her forging of a unique and powerful path.”
– Rhana Devenport, 2021, Director, Art Gallery of South Australia
Judith Wright has been curated into a number of important exhibitions including The National 2021: New Australian Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art; 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres at the Art Gallery of South Australia, and the 18th Biennale of Sydney: All Our Relations at the Museum of Contemporary art in 2012.
Wright’s work can be found in the collections of Artbank, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Parliament House Collection, and Kawaguchi Museum of Contemporary Art in Japan.
– Exhibition essay by Tony Magnusson