ARARAT - The exhibition Waradgerie Weaver- Lorraine Connelly-Northey opens at the Ararat Regional Art Gallery this Friday.
The work of Lorraine Connelly-Northey came to light in her birthplace of Swan Hill in the early 2000s. Connelly-Northey is a Waradgerie woman who grew up in Wamba Wamba country, where the Mallee bush meets the Murray River, and this background - and its meshing and tension with her father's Irish heritage - has deeply informed her work.
Since those formative early exhibitions the artist has found a national audience for her unique and finely crafted objects which reference their place of origin in powerful ways.
Julian Bowron, curator of Connelly-Northey's 'Waradgerie Weaver' exhibition has written of the artist's 'sharpened awareness of unwritten protocols that determine what is and is not appropriate for an Aboriginal artist not on her own country'.
This unease led the artist away from directly engaging with the weaving traditions and fibre materials of her birthplace into more personal terrain, drawing inspiration from her combined Aboriginal and European heritage and fusing these interwoven cultures and histories.
To establish her own voice, the artist turned to the discarded detritus of local farming: rusted corrugated iron, fencing wire, chicken wire and barbed wire. Drawing on her childhood spent observing her resourceful parents she began refashioning this foraged metal into sculptural forms inspired by vessels and clothing worn by her Aboriginal forebears, such as Narbongs (Waradgerie for marsupial pouch).
Connelly-Northey's work is notable for its innovative and unexpected merging of settler and indigenous material culture.
Bowron writes, 'The politics of Connelly-Northey's work is...never intentionally overt although commentators often read the choice of materials as forbidding, discordant and even hostile'.
However, her work is far more nuanced and personal than such limited readings suggest.
Connelly-Northey celebrates her Aboriginality and her work addresses the dispossession of Aboriginal people but, as she has said, '...I set out to ensure that however my art developed it would represent my parents equally and, of course, make my parents proud'.
Connelly-Northey has since returned to her mother's Waradgerie country in rural southern NSW, and this important reconnection to country has influenced her practice, resulting in the 'Waradgerie Weaver' exhibition commissioned by and launched at Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery in November 2012 and presently exhibited for the second and final time at Ararat Regional Art Gallery.
Lorraine Connelly-Northey will present an artist's talk on Saturday February 2 2013 at 2pm to formally open the Ararat Regional Art Gallery presentation of her Waradgerie Weaver exhibition.