WA Now – Julie Dowling: Babanyu (Friends for Life)

WA Now – Julie Dowling: Babanyu (Friends for Life)

The exhibition takes a step back in time to a period (1993–2005) when First Nation Badimaya artist, Julie Dowling, was emerging as one of the most important artists in Western Australia and the country.

In this period, the real-life stories she shared about First Nations peoples’ experience in this country were abrupt, brutal and challenging. Many of the stories she shared were, and still are, largely unknown or acknowledged in mainstream Australian society. 

To convey these messages, Dowling draws from Renaissance portrait paintings of the 16th century. Similar to the early classical paintings, the faces in Dowling’s paintings show minimal expression, except for the gaze. Large brown eyes stare out with a mix of sorrow and protest, as well as strength and determination. 

Individual and group portraits of the artist, her family and friends paintings, drawn from the State Art Collection, make up the thirty-nine paintings on display.

In addition to investigating contemporary stories of First Nations people, that rival the most ancient and epic of tales, the show is one large composite portrait of the artist. Through these works, we get a glimpse of who Dowling is and what she stands for, such as social justice and change. Further still, we get to see Julie Dowling as a Badimaya woman, learn about her love for Badimaya family and culture and of her deepening relationship with Badimaya language.

In her words, culture and language are ‘Babanyu’ – friends for life.

Exhibition Catalogue (Downloadable PDF)

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AGWA is closed until 16 October for a final stage of redevelopment works. Details