Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Colin and Elizabeth Laverty, 2012
ochres and pigment on linen
H 150 W 180 D 20cm
Paddy Bedford was a senior Gija artist and lawman who was known to family, close friends and kin by his traditional name Nyunkuny or his nickname Goowoomji/Kuwumji. Although he painted for ceremony all his life Bedford only started painting for exhibition in 1998 at the invitation of close friend and fellow artist Freddy Timms and Tony Oliver, manager of Jirawun Arts Centre at the time.
Bedford developed his own painting style that remained true to the highly recognisable ‘East Kimberley’ or ‘Turkey Creek’ style that emerged in the late 1970s inspired by the landscape, stories and colours of north Western Australia. Until the time of his passing in 2007, he continued to experiment with form and pictorial convention, combining large expanses of colour and dotted edging more commonly seen in the rounded forms of early pioneers of the Turkey Creek painting style such as Rover Thomas and Paddy Jaminji, and the fluid lines of Queenie McKenzie. Bedford explored the rich history of his Country and the important stories that have mapped its past, painting the bones of the landscape with waterholes, stock yards, roads and Country that he traversed all of his life.
Camel Gap is an important artwork that documents the development of the artist’s professional practice. To Gija people Camel Gap is also known as Gernawarliyan. It is a story from his Mother’s Country that illustrates the shared recent history of Gija and non-Aboriginal people. The site is located south of Martie’s Bore in the East Kimberley, north Western Australia. It is connected to an ngarranggarni (Dreamtime) story of the goanna Garndoowoolany who camped out there. Garndoowoolany called out to Marranyi, the dingo, whom he saw at the top of the hill. It was here that Marranyi got stuck and became part of the rock. The reason behind the name of this place is twofold. It highlights the early history of the Afghan cameleers who travelled from the port at Wyndham South to remote Kimberley communities and further afield for trade. The hill also evokes the features of a camel.
Bedford painted with a deep sense of cultural responsibility. Throughout much of his professional practice this respected senior Gija artist and lawman painted stories from either his Father’s Country or his Mother’s and Uncle’s Country.
In 2006, the MCA honoured this important artist with a solo exhibition of over 50 works that toured nationally to Perth, Bendigo and Brisbane. The exhibition highlighted not only Bedford’s command for painting and the development of this impressive body of work, but also the history of his country and the three significant sites he was major custodian of: Emu Dreaming, Bush Turkey Dreaming and Cockatoo Dreaming.
Keith Munro, Statement of significance, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2012