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In 1966 Gurindji people working as stockmen and domestics at Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory walked off the job to protest against poor working conditions and demand recognition of traditional land rights. Their campaign took nine years but ownership of the land was finally returned to them. In August every year, on the anniversary of the strike, people gather at Kalkaringi to celebrate and re-enact the walk-off.
For the past 10 years the story of the Gurindji people and their land has been a theme in Peter Hudson’s art. In 1991, Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody recorded the song From little things big things grow also about the walk-off. This shared interest prompted Hudson to approach Kelly about painting his portrait.
This is Hudson’s second portrait of Kelly, whom he considers ‘one of the greatest singer-songwriters on the planet’. Kelly’s music straddles folk, rock, bluegrass and reggae while his lyrics address Australian history and culture. ‘He wrote a song called Words and music, which sums up everything about music and being an artist, hence the title of the portrait’, says Hudson. ‘In the song he talks about hearing the Beatles for the first time while standing in the school yard and how it changed his life forever.’ Hudson asked Kelly to wear the polka dot shirt, which he had seen him wear on television, as he felt it evoked that era.
Born in Townsville in 1950, Hudson now lives and works in Maleny in south-east Queensland. His paintings and jewellery have been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows. His solo exhibition On his selection was the inaugural show at the Caloundra Regional Art Gallery in 2000. In 2006 the same gallery showed a survey exhibition of Hudson’s Gurindji paintings for the 40th anniversary of the walk-off. The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory acquired three works from the exhibition. Although known primarily as a landscape artist, in recent years Hudson has done more and more portraiture.