'Judy Watson & Helen Johnson: red threads of history, loose ends' is on Display at the Museum of Art and Culture

The exhibit is on display in Awabakal Country until 23 July.

By: May. 30, 2023
'Judy Watson & Helen Johnson: red threads of history, loose ends' is on Display at the Museum of Art and Culture

Judy Watson & Helen Johnson: red threads of history, loose ends is now on display at the Museum of Art and Culture, yapang, Lake Macquarie.

Two artists, two generations, two perspectives: Judy Watson & Helen Johnson: the red thread of history, loose ends is a National Gallery of Australia Touring Exhibition presenting works in conversation by two of the country’s leading artists – Judy Watson and Helen Johnson.

On display in Awabakal Country until 23 July, this will be the last stop for the touring exhibition which invites audiences into the artists’ dialogue on the roles of women in contemporary and colonial Australia.

Watson, a Waanyi woman, based on Jagera/Yuggera and Turrbal Country of Meanjin/Brisbane and Johnson, a second-generation immigrant of Anglo descent based in Wurundjeri Woiwurrung Country in Naarm/Melbourne, have each developed new works of art that consider complex and varied perspectives on colonisation, with an emphasis on the experience of women.

Curators Tina Baum, Gulumirrgin (Larrakia)/Wardaman/Karajarri peoples, and Elspeth Pitt said both artists look at the roles of women in recent history.

‘Matrilineal experience is key to Watson’s work, while Johnson explores the symbolism of women and whiteness in historical illustration and contemporary media.’

‘From womanhood to truth-telling, the red thread of history, loose ends reflects the artists’ shared artistic concerns through different perspectives as they explore their individual and Ancestral cultural experiences living in Australia.’

For Watson and Johnson, the hope is that this collaboration starts conversations, prompting people to encounter subjects from different perspectives.

‘There are parallels in the way that Helen and I look at history and try to deal with it as artists, and to bring it into our current perspectives as women and mothers, living in Australia with the burden of what happened on this continent in terms of colonisation. It’s a historicising of fact and research, but there’s a tender stamp of femininity too, which is very powerful. Subtle, but powerful,’ said Watson.

‘Judy and I have such different subject positions, but with the commonality of womanhood. I was thinking about the work that can be done from these perspectives and what happens when they meet. I feel like colonial Australia and contemporary Australia are one and the same thing – this is part of the continuity that runs through this exhibition and is alluded to in the title: the red thread of history,’ said Johnson.

Originally displayed at the National Gallery in Kamberri/Canberra as part of The Balnaves Contemporary Series, the exhibition has travelled to the Monash University Museum of Art, Caulfield, Victoria and now New South Wales.

Judy Watson & Helen Johnson: the red thread of history, loose ends is a National Gallery Touring Exhibition, supported by the Australian Government through the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program. This is a part of The Balnaves Contemporary Series and a Know My Name project.

Judy Watson & Helen Johnson is a free exhibition on display at the Museum of Art and Culture, yapang, Lake Macquarie from 27 May – 23 July 2023. For more information visit: Judy Watson & Helen Johnson: the red thread of history, loose ends - Museum of Art and Culture | yapang (lakemac.com.au)



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