Desire by Judith Wright at QUT Art Museum

13 September – 25 November 2014

PREVIEW _ Judith Wright: Desire

by Heidi Maier 

Not to be confused with the iconic Australian poet and environmentalist of the same name, Brisbane-based artist Judith Wright is best known for creating deeply personal and emotive works directly inspired by life-altering personal loss.

The Queensland University of Technology Art Museum’s exhibition Judith Wright: Desire showcases a series of works, begun over a decade ago, that focus on the artist’s imagined life of her deceased infant daughter. In doing so, it presents a dreamed existence artfully executed using installation, painting and sculpture to create works that were, for her, an integral part of articulating and processing her grief.

Central to Judith Wright: Desire is the moving image series Seven Stages of Desire, 2003–2010. Two further major installations, A Journey, 2011–2012, and the unforgettable Destination, 2013 – a piece that depicts her daughter’s journey to an afterlife – complete the picture.

Exhibition curator Megan Williams hopes the show will make Wright’s works accessible to a broader audience, many of whom will likely be completely unfamiliar with her oeuvre.

“I feel very privileged to have worked with Judith on this. Whilst all of her work comes from a really personal place, this series in particular comes from a point of deep personal tragedy,” she says.

“To have worked so closely with her on something with her that was so very dear to her and her family’s hearts has been an experience that I won’t soon forget. It has been very special.”

Judith Wright: Desire is impressive in its scope and interdisciplinary approach to showcasing the artist’s dexterity across a number of mediums, most memorably film, installations and painting.

Comprising seven videos – One Dances, 2003; Between, 2007; Faburden, 2008; The Gift, 2008; A Fable, 2008; The Stager, 2008 and Desire, 2010 – Seven Stages of Desire is grief writ large, a vivid, arresting work that runs a gamut of emotions. It’s shown here with an equally affecting series of seven paintings, 2013’s Through A Glass, Darkly.

Though Wright has exhibited widely nationally and internationally, she does not actively court the limelight, instead preferring for viewers to have their own dialogue with her works.

Her installations are one of a kind, and utterly riveting in their use of reappropriated old toys, among them bicycles and creepy ceramic dolls that are missing limbs, as well as discarded shop mannequins, plush toys and children’s clothing.

These powerful, inscrutably surreal installations chart the life her baby might have lived, had she survived and, in doing so, bring to mind the words of British novelist Jeanette Winterson: “Why is the measure of love loss?” Why, indeed.

Judith Wright: Desire
QUT Art Museum
13 September – 25 November 2014.

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