Barka the Forgotten River
Badger Bates and Justine Muller
Foyer Gallery > 13 June – 21 July 2019
Opening night | 6pm Thursday 13 June 2019
With works spanning nearly three decades, Barka the Forgotten River is a timeline of the love artists Badger Bates and Justine Muller have for the Barka, or Darling River – “our mother and the blood in our veins” – and its people, the Barkandji.
Early works are a celebration of the life force and cultural, social and economic values of the Barka and its tributaries, while later works look back and remember what life used to be like living on the river, and how it gave everything that was needed; fresh water, food, bark, wood and enjoyment. Moments of significance are recorded here, such as the loss of catfish, the first fish that seemed to disappear nearly 20 years ago, and the 2010 flood (after the 2002-2009 drought) that brought an abundance of life back to the river and lakes, with fish, birds and plants all spawning, breeding, growing and flowering in the beautiful fresh floodwater.
The 2018 works tell a different story; one of desperate fear for the river and its ecology, for the cultural, social and economic life of the Barkandji people as the river disappears before their eyes and turns into a cesspool of algae, death and destruction. It also tells the story of the Barkandji people’s determination to fight for their river, a statement of the belief that they will be able to override the greed of the cotton growers; “cotton growers beware, as our ancestors are powerful!”
About the artists >
Badger Bates was born on the Darling River at Wilcannia in 1947. He was brought up by his extended family and his grandmother, Granny Moysey, who spoke several languages and knew many traditional songs and stories. With his grandmother, he travelled the country learning about the language, history and culture of the Barkandji people from the Barka, or Darling River.
Badger is an established artist using the mediums of linocut print, wood, emu egg, mosaic, stone carving and metalwork. His art reflects the motifs, landforms, animals, plants and stories of Barkandji country. He mixes the traditional and contemporary to create a style that portrays a strong sense of identity and association with the land and waters.
Badger’s work has been acquired by the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Manly Art Gallery, UNSW Galleries, Monash University, Mildura City Council, Flinders University Print Collection, NSW Parliament House, Federal Parliament House Art Collection, The Australian Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney), in addition to regional art galleries and private collectors. In 2015 Badger won the esteemed Outback Art Prize with the collaborative work Caillin and Tunjili – Steamers Point Wilcannia with Jodie Daley.
Justine Muller completed her bachelor of Fine Arts at the National Art School in Sydney (2007). Muller is represented in both state and private collections, including the Macquarie Bank Group Collection and Sydney City Archives State Library. Group exhibitions include the Art Gallery of New South Wales Dobell Drawing Prize (2012/2013), Portia Geach Memorial Prize (2013), Paddington Art Prize (2014/2017), City of Sydney Art and About Festival (2014) and the Moran Photographic Prize (2015/2018). Muller’s solo exhibition Understanding My Country was a feature of HeadOn Festival in 2017, the same year she achieved recognition in The Guardian Australia’s list of best and most important photos.