Dale Harding makes wall paintings using stencils and various pigments made up of yellow-brown ochres and the laundry whitener Reckitt’s Blue; in doing so he brings a very long past into view. Much of his inspiration comes from the rock paintings in the Carnarvon Gorge of Australia’s Central Queensland, a place to which he has a deep ancestral connection and part of an area that has seen nearly 20,000 years of indigenous occupation. Where some might see these sites in the gorge as archaeological or anthropological – as the product of a culture far distanced from the present – Harding’s work extends their forms and communicates a sense of their cultural continuum and the continued relevance of their embedded histories.
Introducing a colour like Reckitt’s Blue into the vocabulary of a long-practised form has precedents in aboriginal history
Harding was born in the coalmining town of Moranbah in Queensland and is a descendant of the Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal peoples of eastern Australia. That heritage, and the contested history of his homeland, profoundly informs his work. Introducing a colour like Reckitt’s Blue into the vocabulary of a long-practised form has precedents in aboriginal history, even as it engages narratives of settler culture, government control and the domestic servitude that arrived with it. With each gesture and move in his work, Harding takes care to learn and understand the protocols that have surrounded the histories of his materials and methods – preserving these rooted pasts at the same time that he seeks to understand them in a new way and bring the untold histories of his family and his community into the future.
Dale Harding lives and works in Brisbane. He has previously participated in Soon enough: art in action at Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2018), Documenta 14 (2017); 11th Gwangju Biennale (2016) and the National Indigenous Art Triennial, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2016). His work will feature in the Liverpool Biennial 2018
Kitty Scott is cocurator of the Liverpool Biennial 2018 and the Carol and Morton Rapp Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
From the Summer 2018 issue of ArtReview Asia, in association with K11 Art Foundation