ESSAYS

Carnivale and shape-shifting in a time of pandemic By Michele Helmrich

The works of Judith Wright perhaps shape-shift the viewer into a different mindset. A rational view gives way to a landscape of shadows and fledgling dreams, populated by fragments of creatures, human and otherwise. Above and about us, a cast of animals from farm and zoo, nature, home and spirit oscillate in a mobile of many parts, their flipsides revealing human faces. Painted on oddly shaped scraps of wood, faces and body parts are sometimes suspended one under the other in twos or threes, further animating this strangely happy flock. Have they found release from story books and toys? Their graphic quality suggests such a link with childhood. An elephant, a merry goat, a cat with pointy ears and wicked eyes, perky birds with upturned beaks, some linked to placid fish, human faces whose nose and mouth have become separate entities, and are they birds with wings, a bat, and …

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Judith Wright | The National 2021: New Australian Art

Judith Wright’s practice is deeply grounded in the corporeal. As a former professional ballet dancer, the artist works from the perspective of embodied knowledge – a means of understanding the world through the physical reality of the body. Her large-scale painted books, for instance, demand the viewer’s physical effort. To experience these works one must turn their oversized pages with exaggerated, sweeping motions. Similarly, her works on Japanese paper are directly scaled in relation to the proportions of the body: their abstracted forms hint at the curves and undulations of the human form, while their waxed surfaces mimic the uneven texture of skin and emit a faint, sweet aroma. Wright’s video works, too, revel in the movement of living, breathing bodies against the inert stiffness of mannequins, which feature heavily in her practice. This focus on the dimensions and conditions of the body is linked to her exploration of mortality …

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Rhana Davenport on Judith Wright, 2020 Adelaide Biennial



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Interview Here We Are 2019, AGNSW

Here We Are interview with Judith Wright (PDF download) Judith Wright in conversation with Hannah Hutchison, Art Gallery of NSW. Movement and the body play an important role in your practice, particularly the movement of bodies in relation to each other. Is this informed by your background as a dancer? Yes, definitely. My dance experience has been very influential in the formation of my art practice. Movement and space – the intimate spatial connections between two bodies – are crucial, as well as the wider spatial relationships of dancers on a stage. These spaces are negotiated through movement. You were a dancer with the Australian Ballet Company in the late 1960s. After you left the company, you started to attend life-drawing classes. What was it that attracted you to drawing? I have been interested in drawing since childhood, making portraits of my school mates and, later, my fellow dancers. I …

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Essay by Julie Ewington

Shadows and shades It is said that shadows, and shades, gave birth to European art. The Greek philosopher Plato recounted how shadows dancing on a cave wall first prompted humans to make representations of themselves and other beings; and the Roman natural historian Pliny the Elder tells how the daughter of Butades, a potter of Corinth, was impelled to trace her lover’s shadow on a wall, so she could preserve his memory while he was away from her.1 From ancient memorials to modern photography, this sense of loss, this desire to recall those who are absent, is a powerful motive for making art. Judith Wright works within this long tradition of love and loss. In A wake 2011, emphatic shadows accompany the figures of 15 fantastical musicians — variously eccentric human and animal or bird hybrids, one even closely resembling a spider. They serve to evoke a departed loved one …

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Essay by Michael Wardell

Judith Wright: An Alchemical Journey Judith Wright, a dancer with the Australian Ballet from 1966 to 1970, learnt at an early age both the limitations of the human body and its ability to express emotions through the abstracted language of gesture. However, if classical ballet is akin to expressionist painting, Wright’s works are more akin to modern dance and particularly the Japanese influences of Noh theatre and the post-war Butoh dance. This is most evident in her film work where movement is slow and the play of light and shadow is as integral to the work as the human body. These works do not give instant gratification but rather reward a slower, meditative approach. They are concerned with those subjects that enter your consciousness when you slow the chatter in your brain and reflect on more essential matters such as life, death, memory and relationships. The Spanish poet Federico Garcia …

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