Stop and think
H.J. (Harry) Wedge was born on Erambie Mission near Cowra in central New South Wales, and draws on his experiences of mission life in his painting. Initially interested in photography, Wedge enrolled at the Eora Centre TAFE (Technical and Further Education) in Redfern, Sydney, in 1989. He soon transferred to painting in acrylic, the medium best suited to his artistic and communicative needs. With his surrealist style, Wedge's paintings seem to freeze a moment and draw out its raw emotive elements. After graduating, he joined the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, Sydney, and began exhibiting alongside such contemporaries as lan Abdulla and Elaine Russell, launching his national and international career.
The Aboriginal tradition of oral history provides Wedge's framework, while his painting acts as a personal journal, compensating for the fact that he is illiterate. His work focuses on postcolonial narrative and examines current social and environmental issues. He has said that he tries '... to paint what I dream, what I hear on 'A Current Affair', things you can even hear people talking about on the train ...'. His powerful paintings operate seductively, enchanting the viewer with signature lyrical figures that he combines with arresting political statements. His figures, refusing to be silenced, become social commentators and express the injustices of the past. In 1992 Wedge held a major solo exhibition, 'Wiradjuri Spirit Man', at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Adelaide and at Boomalli in 1993. In 1996, the monograph 'Wiradjuri Spirit Man' was published, containing a series of images accompanied by transcribed stories.
Wedge participated in the 25th Budapest Autumn Festival in 1993 with other Boomalli artists including Judy Watson and Fiona Foley. The same year, he was represented in Australian Perspecta 1993 and was artist-in-residence at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, producing the narrative work 'Stop and think', 1993, which mixed cautionary tales with current social issues. Wedge was included in 'True Colours: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists Raise the Flag', 1994, a major Boomalli exhibition that toured internationally and was curated by Hetti Perkins and Brenda L. Croft. In 2002, he participated in the Biennale of Sydney with his triptych, 'Taken over the environment', 2002, which tells the chronological story of the invasion of Australia. Wedge's interpretation of Australian history is a combination of fact and fiction occurring in dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish, sequences.
Jonathan Jones in 'Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004
© Art Gallery of New South Wales
From the Gallery Shop
5 panels; synthetic polymer paint on canvas
76.0 x 456.0 cm (irreg.) overall :
a - canvas; 76 x 91.2 x 1.8 cm; stretcher
b - canvas; 76 x 91.2 x 1.8 cm; stretcher
c - canvas; 76 x 91.2 x 1.8 cm; stretcher
d - canvas; 76 x 91.2 x 1.8 cm; stretcher
e - canvas; 76 x 91.2 x 1.8 cm; stretcher
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l. corner [panels a & c], synthetic polymer paint "H.J. WEDGE.93".
Signed and dated l.r. corner [panels b, d & e] , synthetic polymer paint "H.J. WEDGE.93".
© HJ Wedge. Licensed by Viscopy, Australia
Where the work was made
Shown in 5 exhibitions
Suburb, Museum of Sydney, Sydney, 15 Apr 2000–23 Jul 2000
One sun, one moon, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Jul 2007–02 Dec 2007
Home: Aboriginal Art from NSW, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 09 Jun 2012–02 Dec 2012
Cars = My Automolove, Caboolture Regional Art Gallery, 22 Nov 2014–31 Jan 2015
Birabahn and Thelkeld: Mission Life at LMCAG, Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, Booragul, 04 Sep 2015–11 Oct 2015
Referenced in 6 publications
Brenda L. Croft, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, ‘To be young (at heart), gifted and blak: The cultural and political renaissance in Indigenous art in Australia’, pg. 285-293, Sydney, 2007, 290 (colour illus.).
Peter Emmett, Sydney: metropolis, suburb, harbour, 'Suburb', pg. 71-72, Glebe, 2000, 81 (colour illus.,), 82. Reproduction of one of the five panels.
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art', pg. 208-241, Sydney, 1999, 236 (colour illus.).
Jonathan Jones, Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia, 'H.J. Wedge', pg. 170, Sydney, 2004, 170 (colour illus.), 171 (colour illus., detail).
Margo Neale, Yiribana: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection, Sydney, 1994, 126, 127 (colour illus.), 139. plate no. 62
Hetti Perkins, Art + soul: a journey into the world of Aboriginal art, 'Dreams + nightmares', pg. 88-153, Carlton, 2010, 140-141 (colour illus.), 142, 281.