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R VER ON THE BR NK ns de the Murray-Darl ng BAs n


R VER ON THE BR NK ns de the Murray-Darl ng BAs n Curated by Gavin Wilson


BADGER BATES ELISABETH CUMMINGS NICI CUMPSTON RUBY DAVIES BONITA ELY PAUL HARMON JULIE HARRIS EDDY HARRIS KIM HARRIS BRIAN HARRIS WADDY HARRIS AMANDA PENROSE HART MARTIN KING EUAN MACLEOD GUY MAESTRI IAN MARR JUSTINE MULLER IDRIS MURPHY NOT BEN QUILTY LUKE SCIBERRAS JAMES TYLOR JOHN R WALKER MELISSA WILLIAMS-BROWN

Darling/Barka River, Mt Murchison August 2019 Photograph: Gavin Wilson

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RIVER ON THE BRINK On the vast riverine country west of the Great Divide, time is running out. The precious water, coming from the northern reaches has been locked away at its source depriving rivers, wetlands and communities of their life blood. The Darling/Barka no longer flows. People in the river town of Wilcannia are devastated. As a 70-year-old respected Barkandji elder and artist, William ‘Badger’ Bates recalled growing up in Wilcannia on the Barka: ‘Until I was in my 30s, the Barka never went dry. But after that, they started pumping it dry. For the last 5 to 8 years, we say the Barka’s buka. That means the Darling River’s dead. It stinks of the dead fish. Its rotten.’ On the 22 August 2017, for the Barkandji traditional owners (Barkandji and Malyangapa people), native title rights were formally recognised through the Federal Court. However, they had no rights over the water. Badger Bates again: ‘To us it was bad. From the middle of the Darling, around Wilcannia and Menindee, to see what the irrigators are doing up at the top was really bad. Now the irrigators have proved they can stop the river … I told the government people to stop being greedy and let the water go through for everyone. We are Barkandji people. We want to share that water with everyone. We’re not Irrigators. But some of the government people, they are more crooked than a boomerang. I don’t think they could ever lay straight in bed.’ Ruby Davies, a senior artist and non-Indigenous member of the Wilcannia community observed: ‘The higher water trading prices have risen, the lower the amount flowing into the Darling / Barka has become. The simple fact that for years too much water has been taken out of the river is obscured and thwarted. Water sharing plans are now removing the last dregs of water from the river, ancient fish – breeding lakes have been recently drained with officials claiming ‘too much evaporation’ - while upstream more and more irrigation water is held in huge private storage dams evaporating in the sun.’ 4


Further to this, Wilcannia Barkandji elder Kerry ‘Sissy’ King expressed her disgust: ‘That (water efficiency) money paid to irrigators keeps more water upstream for cotton production. Why should they (irrigators) be given money for water that they stole from us?’ Artists are among the many groups of people up in arms over the demise of the oncegreat Darling/Barka River. The environmental, human, cultural and economic loss across the region has been incalculable. River on the Brink: inside the Murray-Darling Basin is one means of amplifying the urgency of the crisis in the hope of provoking real, lasting action at the highest levels. The water held captive by commercial and government agencies must be released to rejuvenate the rivers and wetlands and bring life back into the Basin. The entrenched culture of greed that dominates water allocation has gone on for far too long. Nothing short of a Royal Commission will get to the bottom of this national disaster. Art, by mysterious means, has a way of penetrating the hearts and minds of people prepared to pause and look. Led by Barkandji artists, the powerful revelations on display in River on the Brink will reinforce the need to act now and save the once great Darling/ Barka River. Assembled In a short space of time from April this year, the exhibition is, in a sense, a protest against the ongoing gross mismanagement of our precious water and its concomitant of environmental and cultural degradation. To begin with, the whole nation was ashamed and disgusted at the apocalyptic fish kill that took place on the Darling at Menindee late last year. This was the result of stagnant water becoming a breeding ground for blue-green algae. A drastic drop in surface temperature killed the algae sucking all the oxygen from the water. As a consequence, a million fish died gasping for air. Unfortunately, nothing has changed and another fish kill is inevitable. 5


A striking reaction to this tragedy was a collaborative work between the performance artist, Bonita Ely and photo-journalist, Melissa Williams-Brown. In early 2019, both had converged on the scene at Menindee from opposite directions. Melissa from Adelaide and Bonita from Sydney’s inner-west. After running into one another at a motel in Menindee they hatched a plan. Bonita would float amongst the dead fish and Melissa would photograph the performance. The resultant work, Menindee Fish Kill was a poetic channelling of John Everett Millais’ 1851-1852 painting Ophelia, portraying the grief, suffering and helpless resignation that is felt by many, especially those who live along and rely on the river.

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LEFT: BONITA ELY, MELISSA WILLIAMS-BROWN Menindee Fish Kill 2019 inkjet on metalic 110 x 160 cm collection of the artist BELOW: MELISSA WILLIAMS-BROWN Menindee Fish Kill 2 2019 inkjet on metalic 110 x 160cm collection of the artist

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In another response to the dying fish, The Churning, Julie Harris has created a swirling abstract image of pale pinks and white, echoing the fate of the suffocating fish struggling to survive.

JULIE HARRIS The Churning 2019 acrylic and marble dust on canvas, 149 x140cm courtesy of the artist and Art Atrium

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The Churning records the writhing of dying fish in a river rapidly disappearing. The images of the fish kill with the fleshy white and pink colours dominating the scene are an indictment of incompetent governance and a willingness to sacrifice our environment for economic benefit. I hope my work has the visceral quality, which I experienced with these images, witnessing the suffocating struggle to survive. If we do not intervene nothing and no one will remain.

JULIE HARRIS Wetlands (memories) 2019 ink on paper, 75 x 216cm coutesy of the artist and Art Atrium

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One of the key sites for artists to access the Darling over many years is at a place known as New Mt Murchison, situated 30 klms upriver from Wilcannia. The homestead and outbuildings are located on a slight rise 40 metres from the riverbank, lined with ancient Red River Gums. During a time of extensive flooding along the river, W.C. Piguenit was on location and captured the scene in his great panoramic canvas, The Flood in the Darling 1890, held since then in the AGNSW collection. With the politics of water now preventing flooding of any description, the landscape around Wilcannia maintains a stark foreboding appearance; more like the Russell Drysdale painting, The Crucifixion 1945, inspired by scenes he had witnessed of prolonged drought in western NSW. The painting also hangs in the AGNSW with the Moderns. New Mt Murchison has been in the Marr family since 1946, when Ted Marr and his wife Doreen, in partnership with Bill Cook, took over the freehold of 640 acres with a further 122,422 acres of leasehold. Of their five children, Ian is now the one who spends a good deal of his time on the property. At present, the land is not stocked, encouraging regrowth of native vegetation, with the struggling black box marking the edge of the flood plain. In recent correspondence, Ian Marr, painter, draftsman and letter-cutter, outlined his early years on the property: ‘The Darling River near Wilcannia was the scene of our childhood adventures – fishing, swimming, mucking around in boats. Its ever-changing colours and character formed our memories: the shady refuge of the river timber on returning from the back country and, in those days, the refreshment of a long cool drink from the river. Now, it is sadly degraded, full of destructive carp, a chain of waterholes, sand and rock, for years on end. We all hope that rational policies and community discussion, including the voices of artists, can change the destiny of this beautiful and important river.’

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Ian Marr remains a generous host to a number of his artist friends who enjoy the riverine environment to explore and paint. In River on the Brink, Elisabeth Cummings, Euan Macleod, Amanda Penrose Hart, Luke Sciberras, Guy Maestri and Ben Quilty penetrated the dissected landscape and empty river around Wilcannia and Mt Murchison on numerous occasions to produce work inspired by the emotional and visceral impact at the place. Works by all the artists in the exhibition are supplemented by statements outlining their inspiration/ motivation.

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IAN MARR Stele 2019 hand-cut lettering on Mintaro slate courtesy the artist and Stella Downer Fine Art


IAN MARR The rocks at Mount Murchison Felt tip pen on copper sheets diptych, 66 x 295cm overall courtesy the artist and Stella Downer Fine Art

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The riverbed near the New Mount Murchison homestead and shearing shed is a repository of nineteenth-century bottles, pottery, hardware and freight lost from steamers on high water, including an anvil and rolls of wire netting, tanks and firearms. This drawing represents it at low water, where the mudstone and ironstone and sand are exposed.

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ELISABETH CUMMINGS The Shed, Mount Murchison 2019 oil on canvas, 165 x 200cm Private Collection

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ELISABETH CUMMINGS Dry river bed 2019 oil on canvas, 165 x 200cm Private Collection

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ELISABETH CUMMINGS Darling River bank 2019 oil on canvas, 60 x 80cm courtesy King Street Gallery on William 17


ELISABETH CUMMINGS River bank 2019 gouache on paper 23 x 30cm courtesy King Street Gallery on William

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ELISABETH CUMMINGS Remnant River 2019 gouache on paper 23 x 30cm courtesy King Street Gallery on William

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ELISABETH CUMMINGS Light on the river 2019 gouache on paper 23 x 30cm courtesy King Street Gallery on William

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I recently stayed at Mt. Murchison near Wilcannia. The Darling flows through the property and is much depleted by drought and inappropriate use of the river water. The dryness of the river is the subject of my paintings.

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This project is of great interest to me; the region faces arguably the most pressing environmental crisis of our time, it’s obvious the atmosphere was different to the last few times I have been out there. The Darling River is the largest water system in Australia, and intrinsic to the stability of the communities in the region, as well as the food security of wider Australia. I want my works to reveal the devastation of the region, uninhibited and raw. The media mentions the fish dying, and the lack of water, but the entire landscape is impacted. Even AMANDA PENROSE HART Darling River Bend 2019 oil on linen, 51 x 61cm collection of the artist, courtesy King Street Gallery on William

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the trees are more fragile because there is just no water in the soil. I think my work has always reflected landscapes as they are, I try not to alter the image. One of the benefits of en plein air work is in fact being able to capture the character of the landscapes. I hope these works reveal the altered landscape I witnessed during my last visit. AMANDA PENROSE HART Murray Darling 2019 oil on linen, 90 x 120cm collection of the artist, courtesy King Street Gallery on William

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Over many years I’ve returned to the Darling and seen it in its many guises. Sadly though and more regularly the river is a long dustbowl, bleached by sun and pale encrusted mud. The grand river gums are becoming accustomed to shedding large limbs which shatter into the riverbed. Surely the cycles of flood and drought occurred before European settlement but one can’t help but wonder if a dry riverbed was any more frequent than a once or twice in a lifetime occurrence in the time of the Barkindji.

LUKE SCIBERRAS Riverbed bed, Wilcannia 2019 gouache & pastel on paper, 56 x 75cm collection of the artist

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LUKE SCIBERRAS Below the red ground, Wilcannia 2019 gouache & pastel on paper, 56 x 75cm collection of the artist

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LUKE SCIBERRAS Sand hills on the Darling 2019 gouache & pastel on paper, 56 x 75cm collection of the artist 26


LUKE SCIBERRAS When the river runs dry 2018 oil on board, 120 x 160cm private collection 27


LEFT: GUY MAESTRI The Broken River 2019 oil on canvas, 14 x 112cm collection of the artist RIGHT: GUY MAESTRI The Broken River 2 2019 oil on canvas, 112 x 87cm collection of the artist

It feels wrong to be here. I should not be able to set up at the bottom of this massive empty river, looking up at its thirty-foot high banks. It feels like some mysterious force is holding back all the water upstream and at any moment it will all come flooding down, collecting me and anything else in its path. The rains came two weeks before I got here and there is still no water. It rained heavily upstream and there is still no water. The water table here is so low that even the bore water is saline and unusable. It is obvious the solution is far more than just waiting for rain. 28


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The Wilcannia Zombie Rorschach painting was made on a giant easel in the bottom of the dry Darling River bed in 2013. I was there with some friends and family and we were devastated and haunted by the decimated sight of the waterless scar that was once such a powerful river way. The destruction of that sacred place was entirely my peoples fault, no one else’s. We are the zombies, the intruders, the problem and 6 years later we are incapable of remedying what is a national disgrace. 30


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BEN QUILTY Wilcannia, Zombie Rorschach 2013, reworked 2014 oil on linen 260 x 660cm; 12 panels collection of the artist


When I mentioned the project to Euan Macleod and pointed out the short time-frame and urgency of delivering an exhibition in September, he told me he was interested but would be half a world away in Patagonia and the Galapagos. The distance from the subject somehow sharpened his vision of dislocation and loss. The result was a powerful series of studies that culminated on his return to Wilcannia in the two works, Blue boat and skeleton, Darling River and Carrying leaking boat, Darling River.

ABOVE: EUAN MACLEOD Figures Carrying a Boat, Darling River 19/05/2019 acrylic on paper, 38.5 x 58cm courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William

RIGHT: EUAN MACLEOD Carrying leaking boat, Darling River 2019 oil and acrylic on polyester, 180 x 150cm courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William 32


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The theme of this show is one I feel very strongly about. I see my work as looking at how we interact with our environment, something which has such a profound significance in such a marginal area as the Murray-Darling Basin. A lot of my painting also deals with water but in this case a lack of it. On a recent trip to Wilcannia I found a dinghy half buried and useless beside the almost dry Darling. A stark reminder that neither boats nor people can get very far without water. EUAN MACLEOD Boat/ Skeleton/ Darling 2019 acrylic on paper, 38.5 x 58cm courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William

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EUAN MACLEOD Blue boat and skeleton, Darling River 2019 oil and acrylic on polyester, 100 x 124cm courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William 35


Darling/Barka River at Kalyanka August 2019 Photograph: Gavin Wilson

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In recent years, the time John R. Walker has spent on the Darling around Wilcannia has reinforced his concept of the Antipodes as a kind of paradise lost. The paradise being the unique riverine eco-systems that once sustained an Indigenous culture, attuned to the nuances of Country through thousands of years of acute observation and husbandry. All this has been ignored in a disastrous misreading of the country’s fragile landscape systems across the world’s driest continent. In May this year, in a speech to the National Press Club, the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party, Michael McCormack, announced he had the key to unlocking the potential of regional Australia – ‘It’s simple’ – he said ‘just add water.’ This wilfully ignorant remark underlines the fact that in this present political climate, industry will always trump the environment. As John R. Walker points out: ‘Very few people really understand the profound uniqueness of Australia’s river systems, soils and climates. We have tried to live in and farm this continent as though it was simply a drier bit of Europe or Asia. The consequences of this deep misunderstanding are starkly revealed along the steep, dry trench and occasional pools of sulphurous blue green algae that was once the mighty Darling River. I remember, above all, the sense of fragility and temporariness of many, perhaps most, of the remnants of the attempts of European style settlement; by now little more than scars, pits in the ground, broken bottles, twisted wire and lost dreams of Australia Felix.’

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JOHN R. WALKER Kalyanka 2015 archival oil on polyester, 177 x 180cm collection of the artist, courtesy Utopia Art Sydney

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JOHN R. WALKER The Darling at Kalyanka 2014 archival oil on polyester, 178 x 186cm private collection

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The work of the painter and printmaker, Idris Murphy, is steeped in his decades-long engagement with outback regions, particularly Fowlers Gap, situated 110 klms north of Broken Hill. The research station has accommodation for artists to spend extended periods in the Arid Zone. While out in the region, Murphy has often travelled to Wilcannia and Broken Hill, observing subtle variations in the landscape, where water is a rare commodity and the Darling lingers in decline. His works are imaginative reworkings of these experiences as the artist explains: Last Water Reflections has been part of continuous interest in reflections, often in the last small areas of water left, where the land was going into drought, the last refuge, and on the double meaning of the word reflection.

IDRIS MURPHY Last water reflection 2006 acrylic on board, 120 x 120cm private collection

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RIGHT: IDRIS MURPHY Desert garden, Broken Hill 2003 acrylic on board, 123 x 123cm private collection


Desert Garden came from many trips to the North West of New South Wales, in particular, coming and going to Broken Hill. Noticing on the outskirts, the contradiction of trying to grow exotic trees on the edge of the desert and that they were struggling to survive, the last defence of a European sensibility, only if partly protected by metal fencing.

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In Wilcannia, a group of Barkandji artists have produced fine works that refer directly to their life and culture – a life irrevocably linked to the fate of the Barka. Led by Badger Bates with his expressive black & white linocut prints, audiences can experience the interconnected reality and spirituality of the Barkandji mindset: A concept of Country far removed from the industrial mindset that has clearly subjugated and degraded the country’s fragile resources since colonial annexation.

This lino print shows the Barka or Darling River and lakes Pamamaroo, Copi Hollow and Menindee, the wrinkly marks indicate the lakes are drying up and the fish are dying. The three cods in the river are in the weir pool but the rest of the river is drying up. The handprints are three generations of my grandmother’s family, and the footprints two generations. These prints mark our belonging to this land and water, and we are saying stop this desecration now. This work tells a of fear for the river and its ecology, for the cultural, social, economic life of the Barkandji people as the river disappears before their eyes and turns into a cesspool of algae, death and destruction. It also tells the story of Barkandji people determination to fight for their river.

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BADGER BATES Barka the Forgotten River and the Desecration of the Menindee Lakes 2018 linocut print, 60 x 45cm collection of the artist


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Granny used to catch cod at the Iron Pole one mile out of Wilcannia on the eastern side of the river. We used to go and fish there, at the big bend in the river and that’s where Granny’s fishing spot was. She used to sit on a bare patch there, we call it a stony bank. It’s like limestone sort of stuff and it’s a good place to fish and then also across the river that’s where she seen the Water Dog (a form of the Ngatyi or Rainbow Serpent). She used to go to this spot because we lived not far away and Granny used to fish there all the time. BADGER BATES Parntu Thayilana Wiithi (Cod Eating Yabbies) 2004 linocut print, 37 x 79cm collection of the artist

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BADGER BATES Life Coming Back to Moon Lake, Wilcannia 2011 linocut print, 73 x 43cm collection of the artist

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BADGER BATES Ngatyi Blowing a Rainbow at Peery Lake 2009 linocut print, 43 x 73cm collection of the artist

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BADGER BATES Mission Mob, Bend Mob, Wilcannia 1950s 2009 linocut print, 73 x 42.5cm collection of the artist

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The works by Eddy Harris, River Spirits and his son Kim Harris, The Baka, re-inforce the connection to Country and the Barka with its life-force, and age-old cultural significance. This work is about the Barka (Darling River). The white lines down the centre show of the artwork show the Baka flowing through the landscape. The central circle and the two half circles at top and bottomare the deep holes where the fish live. The moss green line on the outside of the central Barka is the trees and vegetation on the riverbanks. On each side there is 7 white circles with green around the outside and 2 half circles on each side, these represent the boxwood swamps around the Baka. The half circle designs all around the edges are sand hills, these have the brown around them to represent red sand. There is also green within these half circles where the vegetation grows on the high part of the land. In the rest of the artwork if you look very closely, the animals are coming in to have a drink, water birds, kangaroos and emus. When it’s damp, they leave footprints on the flood plains. The birds come in and have a drink and then fly away again. The yellow/ brown circles represent old campfires, the mussel middens that are tens of thousands of years old from our ancestors on the Baka. The mussels are represented throughout the work if you look very closely. The ancestors and spirits that look over country and the Baka area are all through the artwork, make sure you get up closely to see them. The background grey is the floodplain that cracks up like a jigsaw puzzle and runs around the sand hills. This is my country.

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EDDY HARRIS River spirits 2019 acrylic on canvas, 122 x 90 cm collection of the artist


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The colours in the background represent campfire, while the ants represent the people, large ants are the old people and the small ants are the young people. The old people are telling the young ones the stories around the campfire.

EDDY HARRIS River gathering 2019 acrylic on canvas, 73 x 50cm collection of the artist

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KIM HARRIS Boomerangs (3) 2019 acrylic on River Red Gum wood, 70 x 77cm collection of the artist RIGHT: KIM HARRIS The Baka 2019 acrylic on canvas, 122 x 92cm collection of the artist

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In Brian Harris’ works, River Goanna and Waterbirds, the artist has retrieved happy childhood memories – Harris explains As we approached the river on hot days we could hear the waterbirds and we were excited as we knew that relief from the heat was close.

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BRIAN HARRIS Water Birds 2019 acrylic on bark, 78 x 24cm collection of the artist


These goannas were part of our early life as they were also always by the river when we were fishing and playing. They also keep us safe and keep snakes away. We learnt to respect them as our elders taught us about their special medicine.

BRIAN HARRIS River Goanna 2019 acrylic on bark, 74 x 21cm collection of the artist

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Waddy Harris and Gavin Wilson Wilcannia August 2019 Photograph: Ian Marr

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The woodcarver and sculptor, Waddy Harris, is an intriguing Barkandji elder who has made his studio and home on the outskirts of Wilcannia in the annex of an old car yard. With minimal intervention, he creates fine bowls from the burls of ancient River Red Gums. One of his finest works to date Watering hole and serpent tells the story of Ngatji, the Barkandji’s Rainbow Serpent. It teaches people where they can and cannot swim or fish. It often lives and travels between different watering holes. Sadly, this cultural practice cannot survive without a healthy river.

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A key image in the exhibition is the photograph by Ruby Davies, Water is life; the town of Wilcannia and the Darling Baaka 2007. It’s a poignant image reminiscent of a Breughel capturing the abysmal circumstance a river community endured 12 years ago. Today, the situation has worsened. In a recent statement, Davies describes the local participants and background of the work: On the day of the photograph the Darling Barka had been continually dry for a record of almost twelve months. Since the early 1990’s, more and more water has been pumped out of the tributaries, with less and less making it to Wilcannia. What was a relatively isolated river community is now tied to the destructive machinations of industrial agribusiness and global economies. The townspeople, most of whom are Barkindji, are passionately and linguistically connected to the Barka - their river. Members of the Aboriginal Land Council, the Rural Fire Service, the CDEP and students and teachers from the St Therese and the Wilcannia Central School enthusiastically posed for the portrait, registering their disgust at government treatment of a river that has sustained their culture for centuries. Twelve years after this photo was taken, with even more water taken out upstream, the situation for the Darling/Barka is increasingly bleak. The river crisis has generated an avalanche of media publicity; accusations of theft and corruption at government and corporate levels; numerous reports and inquiries - and nothing is helping the river. For people visiting the Darling Barka today the challenge is finding anything remotely resembling a river - with exposed river beds stretching for kilometres – 58 and only puddles of stagnant water to be found.’


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RUBY DAVIES Water as life: the town of Wilcannia and the Darling/Barka 20 August 2007 giclee / pure pigment print 89 x 120cm collection of the artist


The term ‘sold down the river’ is a reference to slavery, cotton plantations, and global markets in nineteenth century America. On the Mississippi in times of global downturn northern slave owners sold their slaves ‘down the river’ to the southern states, where cruel and harsh treatment often resulted in death.¹ In general speech the term has come to mean a ‘profound betrayal’. In a perverse relationship on the Darling Barka, the higher that water trading prices have risen, the lower the amount of water flowing into the Darling Barka has become. The simple fact that for years too much water has been taken out of the river is obscured and thwarted; ‘Water sharing plans’ are now removing the last dregs of water from the river; ancient fish-breeding lakes have been recently drained with officials claiming ‘too much evaporation’ - while upstream, more and more irrigation water is held in huge private storage dams – evaporating in the sun! Wilcannia Barkindji elder Kerry “Sissy” King is disgusted that (water efficiency) money paid to irrigators keeps more water upstream for cotton production, “Why should they (irrigators) be given money for water that they stole from us?” ²

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RUBY DAVIES Witness 2019 oil on marine ply, 41 x52cm private collection


RUBY DAVIES Sold down the river 2019 oil on canvas, 82 x 62cm private collection 61


An artist who spends a good deal of her time in the Wilcannia region is the painter and photographer, Justine Muller. Over the years, the artist has forged strong links with the Barkandji community across a spectrum of interests and age groups. Her recent collaboration with Badger Bates, the touring exhibition, Barka the Forgotten River, has met with widespread acclaim. Muller’s work is inspired by the region’s increasingly dire environment along with the ongoing human toll generated by a dying river. Muller’s richly textured triptych and arresting series of photographs are supported by revealing narratives.

Badger Bates in the famous Priscilla Hotel, Broken Hill. Born to Barkandji mother and Irish father when inter-racial marriage was illegal. Brought up in a tin hut on the Banks of the Barka (Darling River) Wilcannia, in Far West NSW. All his siblings were taken away during the stolen generation, in fear he would also be taken, he spent much of his childhood travelling the Barka with his grandma Moisey, learning the traditional knowledge of his people. This knowledge became his life’s work and today Bates is one of NSW’s most respected artists and activists, bringing awareness of the plight of the Barka.

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JUSTINE MULLER Uncle Badger Bates, artist and activist 2019 archival pigment print collection of the artist

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The Paaka ( Barka/Darling River) creates who we are as Paakandji ( Barkaji/River people) without water, life wouldn’t exist, it tells the story of creation, the water snake - Ngatyi how it made the Paaka ( Barka/ Darling River) and controlled the fish for the Paakandji People to survive on, water to drink and clean our spirit

JUSTINE MULLER Kevin Dean Whyman 2019 archival pigment print collection of the artist

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In recent years, Australia has seen some of the hottest summers on record. For the town of Wilcannia, temperatures can soar to highs of 48 degrees Celsius; with no water in the river, parents have to find new ways for children to be entertained and cool off. For tens of thousands of years, the Barka has been a constant in the lives of the Barkandji People (River People); it has been a place to source food, teach culture and for children to swim.

JUSTINE MULLER Summer in Wilcannia 2019 archival pigment print collection of the artist

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Plastic flowers, football jerseys, personalised mugs and pottery made by the local children bring colour to a sad reality. In a town where the average life expectancy is 37 years for men and 43 years for women, everyone I meet here is touched by death. Wilcannia is on the Barka/Darling River and home to the Barkindji people (River people) who have their own rich cultural history dating back 40,000 plus years. This area also has a history of forced removal onto missions and ongoing trauma from the stolen generations that has had little redress in both recognising and restoring cultural identity and its integrity JUSTINE MULLER Town in mourning 2019 archival pigment print collection of the artist

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Reena Staker is a sister girl who was born to Nyaampa parents in the small river town of Wilcannia, far west NSW. This photo was taken in her house, the same house she was born and brought up in by her grandparents. When Reena was 4 years old she became an orphan, when she lost her parents in tragic circumstances. Today Reena is a respected leader in her community, confident in her cultural and sexual identity as a proud Barkandji woman. She is passionate about fighting to save her people’s beloved Barka (Darling River).

JUSTINE MULLER Reena Staker 2019 archival pigment print collection of the artist

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The signs on the bridge say no jumping, strong current and boats below. The tiny town of Tilpa, was once a place travelled to for good fishing. Today like many of the towns along the Darling/Barka the community is on emergency boxed drinking water donated by the generosity of others people and community who drive it in on trucks along with hay for starving cattle.

JUSTINE MULLER Tilpa Bridge of the once Mighty Darling River / Barka 2019 archival pigment print collection of the artist

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Due to poor mismanagement over long periods of time the state of the Barka/Darling River has become so sick that at the end of 2018 over a million fish died. This was due from stagnant water becoming a perfect breading ground for blue-green algae. A drastic drop in temperature resulted in the algae dying and sucking all the oxygen from the water, resulting in a million fish gasping for air and eventually floating dead on the surface of the river. Hear no evil JUSTINE MULLER 69

Blue-green algae in the Barka 2019 earth, ochres, pigment, acrylic, charcoal on hand pressed cotton collection of the artist


Continued mismanagement of the Darling/Barka will result in long-term damage to the environment that could be irreversible. The land will become denuded as the top soil blows away and native animals, native fish, native flora become extinct. Is it easier for us to remain wilfully ignorant? The triptych challenges people to open their eyes, listen and speak the truth about the current Murray-Darling Basin crisis. JUSTINE MULLER See no evil Impression of a dust storm 2019 70

earth, ochres, pigments, acrylic, charcoal on hand pressed cotton collection of the artist


Politicians have solely blamed the drought as the reason why the Barka/Darling River is suffering. The worst drought in the nation’s history on top of the mismanagement of Murray-Darling Basin has resulted in the suffering of environment, communities and farmers. NSW Natural Resources Commission found over extraction brought forward drought conditions for parts of the river by three years. JUSTINE MULLER Speak no evil

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The hope of rain 2019 earth, ochres, pigment, acrylic, charcoal on hand pressed cotton collection of the artist


Adelaide-based photographer and printmaker, Nici Cumpston, developed her probing eye for detail while working for six years in the Forensic Department of the South Australian police force. Witnessing the devastation at the lower reaches of the Murray-Darling Basin has triggered a haunting series of photographs of a riverine environment and culture decimated by water loss, environmental vandalism and pollution. Cumpston explains her ties to Country: I am connected to the Murray and the Darling River systems through my Barkindji family and since 2000 I have been documenting the backwaters and inland lake systems in the Riverland of South Australia. I have found many ‘signs’ in the landscape, Aboriginal artefacts and trees that bare witness to Aboriginal occupation and reflect the connection our people have had with this place over many tens of thousands of years.’ ‘There are important sites along the River systems and inland lakes where many different language groups would travel great distances to come together to hold ceremonies and exchange information and goods. There are deep long middens that reveal these popular campsites where people have gathered hunting, fishing, cooking and eating together. Barkindji people from the Darling River would travel the length of the River Murray for these important gatherings. I have always had a strong connection to the River Murray and only recently realised that there is a distinct cultural connection as my Barkindji ancestors have directly helped shaped this history.’ ‘Senior Barkindji custodian and fellow artist William Badger Bates, is one important person who has openly shared cultural stories with me. It is important that these stories of occupation, abundance, and destruction be documented and spoken about from an Aboriginal perspective. 72


NICI CUMPSTON Tree stumps, Nookamka, 2008-10 edition 3/10 archival inkjet print on canvas, hand coloured with watercolours and pencils, 75 x 205cm courtesy the artist

NICI CUMPSTON Ringbarked II, Nookamka Lake, 2011-14 edition 1/5 archival inkjet print on canvas, hand coloured with watercolours and pencils, 75 x 205cm courtesy the artist

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NICI CUMPSTON Memorial I 2017 40 x 25.5cm (image size) 61 x40cm (sheet size) collection of the artist

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NICI CUMPSTON Memorial II 2017 28 x 38cm (image size) 40 49.5cm (sheet size) collection of the artist

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The multi-disciplinary artist, James Tylor, spent his childhood in Menindee. He had not been back to the region for 20 years until he was invited by the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery to run a workshop as part of the FreshBark Project in 2018. Tylor visited Menindee during that time and was disturbed by the state of the Barka /Darling River. As he pointed out: ‘I was compelled to make a photographic series called Economics of Water that highlighted the mismanagement of the Barka/Darling River.

Economics of Water highlights the environmental damage to the Murray Darling River system from poor water management by the State and Federal governments of Australia. This series of photographs of the drought effected Menindee Lakes have been overlaid with gold geometric shapes that symbolise thehuman infrastructure of water diversion for commercial agriculture and settlements. The Murray Darling Basin is Australia’s largest river system, stretching across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. The rivers, lakes and floodplains havebeen a sustainable cultural river system for Indigenous people living along the waterways for 65,000+years, providing water, food, resources and trade routes.

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Following European colonisation, control of the River’s natural resources have been redirected to non-Indigenous agriculture, fisheries, transport and settlements. Industrialisation of agriculture through largecommercial-scale farming and multinational owned companies has led to unsustainable water consumption from the Murray Darling River system. The State and Federal Governments have and continue to use the River’s natural resources as a commodity for financial profit with little regard for environmental and cultural consequences. Low rainfall in the Darling River catchment due to climate change and El Nīno weather have led to drought conditions in the River system. This lack of water combined with agricultural run-off from livestock, pesticides and fertilisers has led to low quality, polluted waterways. The poor environmental conditions have been compounded by introduced species like rabbits and carp. Economics of Water highlights the historic European colonisation of the Murray Darling River system through the systematic control of the water resources and how this has led to the overconsumption of water today. The failure of the State and Federal Governments to regulate and manage water consumption has resulted in irreparable damage to the River’s environment.

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JAMES TYLOR Economics of water #7, (Levee) 2018 gold paint on Photograph, 100 x 100cm collection of the artist, courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne

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JAMES TYLOR Economics of water #12, (Embankment) 2018 gold paint on Photograph, 100 x 100cm collection of the artist, courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne


JAMES TYLOR Economics of water #13, (Weir) 2018 gold paint on Photograph, 100 x 100cm collection of the artist, courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne

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JAMES TYLOR Economics of water #14, (Bank) 2018 gold paint on Photograph, 100 x 100cm collection of the artist, courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne


Many pundits point to cotton as the thirstiest crop in the Murray-Darling Basin, but it appears from a number of reports by both the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, that rice has a thirstier habit. Installation artist, NOT devised an intriguing sculptural piece, The absorption method that delved into the matter. Following is the artist’s statement putting the work in context:

While rice cultivation dates back at least 8000 years to China’s Pearl River Delta, its history in Australia is much more recent, when Japanese immigrant Jo Takasuka introduced it to a then-flood-prone Murray riverbank in 1906. More than a century later, rice is the thirstiest crop in the Murray Darling Basin, requiring 12.6 million litres per hectare or roughly 21,000 litres of water for a kilogram of rice. Working with hand-blown cold-worked glass from vintage wooden rice moulds at Canberra Glassworks, the artist NOT makes transparent this seemingly most unsustainable of economies, with the cost of water alone equating to $21 for a $2.50 kilo bag of rice. While not questioning the centrality of rice in Chinese culture for millennia, such as its original inclusion in the Chinese character qi (meaning essence or spirit), NOT speculates on the ongoing role of rice production in this most environmentally volatile of regions.

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NOT The absorption method 2019 wooden vintage rice mould scorched from hand-blown furnace glass, 12 x 19 x 18cm courtesy the artist and Kronenberg Mais Wright, Sydney

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One needs a birds-eye view to grasp the scale of the degradation inside the Murray-Darling Basin, an area around 1,060,000 square klms, in global terms, a landmass slightly larger than Egypt. In 2018, Photographer Paul Harmon undertook a project titled WaterMarks, a series of innovative drone photographs highlighting the story of water and Country in the MurrayDarling Basin. Photographed in western New South Wales, along the Murray-Darling Basin with the support of first nation elders and pastoralists, Harmon examines the tension, as he put it: ‘that exists when a stark beauty from the air meets ugly truths on the ground, of stolen lands, stolen water, inappropriate land use and environmental degradation. The series highlights the ever-expanding demand for water by industrial scale irrigation schemes in an age of climate change that suck the rives dry and leave a dispossessed people fighting for the country in which their spirituality and identity are so enshrined.’ The series examines the tension that exists when a stark beauty from the air meets ugly truths on the ground of stolen lands, stolen water, inappropriate land use and environmental degradation. While in some sense it is a timeless story of feast and famine in a visually stunning but drought-prone land that has supported human occupation for over 65,000 years, this work must also be viewed in the context of climate change and the ever expanding demand for water by industrial scale irrigation schemes that suck the rivers dry and leave a dispossessed people fighting for the country in which their spirituality and identity are so enshrined. WaterMarks is exhibited with the support of Barkandji, Ngemba, Euahlayi and Wayilwan Indiginous elders over whose country these images were photographed.

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Though breathtaking in its colour and redolent of a spirituality that can not be easily denied, this image shows sheep leading into the dam. It is their cloven hooves that have denuded the landscape of its natural cover leaving the topsoil without structure so the little remaining is now prone to wind erosion. supported by Badger Bates, director Barkandji PBC

PAUL HARMON Barkandji Country 5 2018 archival solvent pigment print on wet strength paper 75 x 75cm collection of the artist

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Though visually arresting, the western reaches of NSW’s Murray-Darling Basin have been reduced to a perilous state. Where floods and drought used to alternate in a natural rhythm, the rivers and streams are now often without flow. Instead the little rainfall the system receives is siphoned off to industrial scale farms - an abomination in this fragile landscape. PAUL HARMON supported by Badger Bates, director Barkandji PBC 86

Barkandji Country 1 2018 archival solvent pigment print on wet strength paper 75 x 75m collection of the artist


Griffith NSW is naturally arid country but has become an oasis of commercial cropping and clovenhoofed animal husbandry through the use of irrigated water within the Murray-Darling Basin. While this has benefited farmers and consumers, over-allocation of water is done at the expense of naturally flowing rivers, important wetlands habitats and the associated cultural integrity of First Nations peoples.

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PAUL HARMON Wiradjuri Country 1 2018 archival solvent pigment print on wet strength paper 75 x 110cm collection of the artist


Through climate-change-related drought and the diversion of water to industrial-scale farming, the natural abundance of vegetation and waterfowl of the Narran Lakes Wetlands has been reduced to almost nothing. Once a meeting place of First Nations for trade, festivals and intermarriage, there are now only vestigial ponds that can no longer support the natural fecundity of the area and the cultural significance it once supported. supported by Ghillar, Michael Anderson, leader Euahlayi Nation

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PAUL HARMON Euahlayi Country 1 2018 archival solvent pigment print on wet strength paper 75 x 110cm collection of the artist


The printmaker, painter and animator, Martin King undertook a residency at the Broken Hill Regional Gallery in 2008. While watching black cormorants flying over the Darling, he was inspired to create an animated vision of a bird in flight through the drawn image inspired, in part, by the expressive animations of William Kentridge. In a recent statement, the artist outlined his intentions: I was motivated to create an animated vision of a bird in flight, through the drawn image. My concern was to articulate a view of ailing river systems, eco systems and environmental fragilities. The haunting imagery is accompanied by soundtracks employed as unsettling counterpoints to the journey of a solitary bird which either disappears or transforms. The repetitive beat of the wings serves as a contemplation on a fundamental rhythm or ‘beat’ that sustains relationships and essential connections, personal and environmental. The animation is a meditation on the nature of the relationships that sustain us, physically and emotionally.

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MARTIN KING Flooding is a dream 2008 etching, aquatint and spitbite, 60 x 180cm collection of the artist 91


MARTIN KING Slowly disappearing Darling 2008 animated 58 second moving image collection of the artist

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With the Darling/Barka teetering on the brink, it’s time to re-think the entrenched industrial mindset responsible for much of the ongoing environmental degradation of western New South Wales. The pioneering notion of the bush as a place to pillage is slowly being revised. On a positive note, to counter a dystopian future, a group of emergent minds working creatively across various disciplines have envisaged an holistic, regenerative future that holds at its core a deep respect and growing understanding of the Indigenous notion of Country. As well, perceptive artists offering unalloyed visions of our troubled world continue to act as vital catalysts in its potential renewal. Sadly, with policy deadlock and no viable strategy in place for the equitable management of water, our most fundamental resource; nothing short of a Royal Commission will get to the bottom of a situation that can only be described as a national disgrace.

Gavin Wilson Exhibtion curator

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List of works BADGER BATES Mission Mob, Bend Mob, Wilcannia 1950s 2009 linocut print, 73 x 42.5cm collection of the artist

ELISABETH CUMMINGS Dry river bed 2019 oil on canvas, 45 x 45cm courtesy King Street Gallery on William

BADGER BATES Ngatyi Blowing a Rainbow at Peery Lake 2009 linocut print, 43 x 73cm collection of the artist

ELISABETH CUMMINGS Remnant River 2019 gouache on paper, 53 x 63cm (frame size) Courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William

BADGER BATES Parntu Thayilana Wiithi (Cod Eating Yabbies) 2004 linocut print, 37 x 79cm collection of the artist BADGER BATES Barka the Forgotten River and the Desecration of the Menindee Lakes 2018 linocut print, 60 x 45cm collection of the artist BADGER BATES Life Coming Back to Moon Lake, Wilcannia 2011 linocut print, 73 x 43cm collection of the artist

ELISABETH CUMMINGS River Bank 2019 gouache on paper, 53 x 63cm (frame size) Courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William ELISABETH CUMMINGS On the banks of the Darling 2019 gouache on paper, 53 x 63cm (frame size) Courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William

ELISABETH CUMMINGS Light on the River 2019 gouache on paper, 53 x 63cm (frame size) CHARLES BAYLISS (1850-1897) Courtesy the artist and King Bullocks crossing the Darling River Street Gallery on William at Wilcannia, New South Wales, 1886 ELISABETH CUMMINGS National Library of Australia The Shed, Mount Murchison 2019 oil on canvas, 165 x 200cm private Collection

NICI CUMPSTON Tree stumps, Nookamka, 2008-10 edition 3/10 archival inkjet print on canvas, hand coloured with watercolours and pencils, 75 x 205cm collection of the artist NICI CUMPSTON Ringbarked II, Nookamka Lake, 201114 edition 1/5 archival inkjet print on canvas, hand coloured with watercolours and pencils, 75 x 205cm collection of the artist NICI CUMPSTON Memorial I 2016 three plate etching on Hahnemühle fine art paper 40 x 25.5cm (image size) 61 x40cm (sheet size) collection of the artist NICI CUMPSTON Memorial II 2016 three plate etching on Hahnemühle fine art paper, 28 x 38cm (image size) 40 x 49.5cm (sheet size) collection of the artist RUBY DAVIES Water as life: the town of Wilcannia and the Darling/Barka 20 August 2007 giclee / pure pigment print, 89 x 120cm private collection


RUBY DAVIES Sun and Moon 2019 oil on canvas, 51 x 63cm collection of the artist RUBY DAVIES Sold down the river 2019 oil on canvas, 82 x 62cm private collection RUBY DAVIES Witness 2019 oil on marine ply, 41 x52cm private collection RUBY DAVIES Mirage 2019 oil on canvas, 63 x 52.5cm private collection BONITA ELY, MELISSA WILLIAMS BROWN Menindee Fish Kill 2019 inkjet on metallic, 110 x 160cm private collection PAUL HARMON Barkandji Country 5 2018 archival solvent pigment print on wet strength paper 75 x 75cm Supported by Badger Bates, director Barkandji PBC, collection of the artist PAUL HARMON Barkandji Country 1 2018 archival solvent pigment print on wet strength paper 75 x 75cm Supported by Badger Bates, director Barkandji PBC, collection of the artist

PAUL HARMON Wiradjuri Country 1 2018 archival solvent pigment print on wet strength paper 75 x 110cm collection of the artist PAUL HARMON Euahlayi Country 1 2018 archival solvent pigment print on wet strength paper 75 x 110cm Supported by Ghillar, Michael Anderson, leader Euahlayi Nation, collection of the artist EDDY HARRIS River gathering 2019 acrylic on canvas, 73 x 50cm collection of the artist EDDY HARRIS River spirits 2019 acrylic on canvas, 122 x 90 cm collection of the artist

KIM HARRIS Boomerangs (3) 2019 acrylic on River Red Gum wood’ 70 x 77cm collection of the artist BRIAN HARRIS River Goanna 2019 acrylic on bark, 74 x 21cm collection of the artist BRIAN HARRIS Water Birds 2019 acrylic on bark, 78 x 24cm collection of the artist WADDY HARRIS Watering hole with serpent 2018 carved red river gum, 64 x 54 x25cm collection of the artist WADDY HARRIS Barka bowl 1 2019 river red gum, 19 x 36 x 63cm private collection

JULIE HARRIS The Churning 2019 acrylic and marble dust on canvas, 149 x140cm collection of the artist

WADDY HARRIS Barka bowl 2 2019 river red gum, 17 x 26 x 34cm private collection

JULIE HARRIS Wetlands (memory) 2019 ink on paper, 75 x 216cm collection of the artist

AMANDA PENROSE HART Murray Darling 2019 oil on linen, 90 x 120cm private collection

KIM HARRIS The Baka 2019 acrylic on canvas’ 122 x 92cm collection of the artist

AMANDA PENROSE HART Darling River Bend 2019 oil on linen, 51 x 61cm courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William


MARTIN KING Flooding is a dream 2008 etching, aquatint and spitbite, 60 x 180cm collection of the artist MARTIN KING Slowly disappearing Darling 2008 animated 58 second moving image collection of the artist EUAN MACLEOD Blue boat and skeleton, Darling River 2019 oil and acrylic on polyester, 100 x 124cm courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William EUAN MACLEOD Boat carrying, horizontal/ Darling acrylic on paper, 38.5 x 58cm courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William EUAN MACLEOD Boat/ Skeleton/ Darling 2019 acrylic on paper, 38.5 x 58cm courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William EUAN MACLEOD Carrying leaking boat, Darling River 2019 oil and acrylic on polyester, 180 x 150cm courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William

EUAN MACLEOD Figures Carrying a Boat, Darling River 19/05/2019 acrylic on paper, 38.5 x 58cm courtesy the artist and King Street Gallery on William GUY MAESTRI The Broken River 2019 oil on canvas, 14 x 112cm collection of the artist GUY MAESTRI The Broken River 2 2019 oil on canvas, 112 x 87cm collection of the artist IAN MARR Nadir 2011 graphite on Strathmore board, 103 x 56cm courtesy the artist and Stella Downer Fine Art IAN MARR The rocks at Mount Murchison Felt tip pen on copper sheets diptych, 66 x 295cm overall courtesy the artist and Stella Downer Fine Art IAN MARR Stele 2019 hand-cut lettering on Mintaro slate courtesy the artist and Stella Downer Fine Art

MAP OF THE DARLING RIVER 1845 (FACSIMILE) BY MAJOR MITCHELL Folio map from Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell’s Three expeditions into the interior of Eastern Australia. Published by T. & W. Boone, 29 New Bond St, [London] 1838 courtesy of Ian Marr JUSTINE MULLER The hope of rain 2019 earth, ochres, pigment, acrylic, charcoal on hand pressed cotton, 102 x 102cm private collection JUSTINE MULLER Blue-green algae in the Barka 2019 earth, ochres, pigment, acrylic, charcoal on hand pressed cotton, 102 x 102cm collection of the artist JUSTINE MULLER Kevin Dean Whyman 2019 archival pigment print, 67 x 51cm (image) 88 x 71cm (frame) collection of the artist JUSTINE MULLER Reena Staker 2019 archival pigment print, 67 x 51cm (image) 88 x 71cm (frame) collection of the artist JUSTINE MULLER Tilpa Bridge of the once Mighty Darling River/ Barka 2019 archival pigment print, 67 x 51cm (image) 88 x 71cm (frame) collection of the artist


JUSTINE MULLER Town in mourning 2019 archival pigment print, 67 x 51cm (image) 88 x 71cm (frame) collection of the artist JUSTINE MULLER Uncle Badger Bates, artist and activist 2019 archival pigment print, 67 x 51cm (image) 88 x 71cm (frame) collection of the artist JUSTINE MULLER Impression of a dust storm 2019 earth, ochres, pigments, acrylic, charcoal on hand pressed cotton, 102 x 102cm collection of the artist

WES STACEY (b.1941) Base of River Red Gum, Wilcannia, New South Wales, ca. 1970 National Library of Australia LUKE SCIBERRAS When the river runs dry 2018 oil on board, 120 x 160cm private collection LUKE SCIBERRAS Sandhills on the Darling 2019 gouache & pastel on paper, 56 x 75cm collection of the artist LUKE SCIBERRAS Deep in clay, Darling River 2019 gouache & pastel on paper, 56 x 75cm courtesy of the artist

JAMES TYLOR Economics of water #13 (Weir) 2018 gold paint on Photograph, 100 x 100cm collection of the artist, courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne JAMES TYLOR Economics of water #14 (Bank) 2018 gold paint on Photograph, 100 x 100cm collection of the artist, courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne JOHN R. WALKER The Darling at Kalyanka 2014 archival oil on polyester, 178 x 186cm private collection

IDRIS MURPHY Desert garden, Broken Hill 2003 acrylic on board, 123 x 123cm private collection

LUKE SCIBERRAS Riverbed bed, Wilcannia 2019 gouache & pastel on paper, 56 x 75cm courtesy of the artist

JOHN R. WALKER Kalyanka 2015 archival oil on polyester, 177 x 180cm collection of the artist, courtesy Utopia Art Sydney

IDRIS MURPHY Last water reflection 2006 acrylic on board, 120 x 120cm private collection

LUKE SCIBERRAS Below the red ground, Wilcannia 2019 gouache & pastel on paper, 56 x 75cm courtesy of the artist

MELISSA WILLIAMS - BROWN Menindee Fish Kill 2 2019 inkjet on metallic, 110 x 160cm collection of the artist

NOT The absorption method 2019 wooden vintage rice mould scorched from hand-blown furnace glass, 12 x 19 x 18cm courtesy the artist and Kronenberg Mais Wright, Sydney

JAMES TYLOR Economics of water #7 (Levee) 2018 gold paint on Photograph, 100 x 100cm collection of the artist, courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne

BEN QUILTY Wilcannia, Zombie Rorschach 2013 reworked 2014 oil on linen 260 x 660cm; 12 panels collection of the artist

JAMES TYLOR Economics of water #12 (Embankment) 2018 gold paint on Photograph, 100 x 100cm collection of the artist, courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne


Gavin Wilson is a leading independent curator, award-winning landscape architect and author. His wide-ranging exhibitions focus on the interconnected themes of landscape and culture in the Australian experience. Since 1993, he has conceived, researched and curated many significant exhibitions for public galleries in metropolitan and regional areas. They include: The Artists of Hill End (1995) AGNSW and tour; Escape Artists: modernists in the tropics (1998) Cairns Regional Gallery and tour; David Moore - Sydney Harbour 50 years of photography (1999) State Library of Hawaii, Australian Embassy, Washington; Rivers + Rocks: Arthur Boyd and Brett Whiteley (2001) Bundanoon Trust and tour; The Big River Show: Murrumbidgee Riverine, (2002) Wagga Wagga Regional Art Gallery; Beneath the Monsoon: visions north of Capricorn (2003) Artspace Mackay and tour; Encounters with country: landscapes of Ray Crooke (2005) Cairns Regional Gallery and tour; Fireworks: tracing the incendiary in Australian art (2006) Artspace Mackay and tour; Cuisine & Country: a gastronomic venture in Australian art (2007) Orange Regional Gallery and Tour; Harbourlife: Sydney Harbour from the 1940s (2008) Manly Art Gallery & Museum and tour; Love on Mount Pleasant: Garry Shead toasts Maurice O’Shea (2009) Maitland Regional Art Gallery and tour; Surface Tension: the art of Euan Macleod (2010) Tweed River Art Gallery and tour; Elemental Reckoning: the art of Tim Storrier (2011) S.H. Ervin Gallery; Picturing the Great Divide: visions from Australia’s Blue Mountains (2013) Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Everyone Is Here : Jason Benjamin paintings & graphics (2013:14) NSW tour; Refiguring Dystopia: the art of Richard Goodwin (2014) Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and tour: Country & Western: landscape re-imagined (2015) Perc Tucker Regional Gallery and tour; Self Portraits on Paper (2016) Yellow House Gallery, Sydney; Interiors (2018) Orange Regional Gallery; River on the Brink: inside the Murray-Darling Basin (2019) S.H. Ervin Gallery and tour. At present, he is researching a project to examine the environmental and cultural impact of mega-dam developments on the Mekong River, through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. www.gavinwilson.com.au

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Cotton dam site, Bourke 2017 Photograph: Lissa Coote

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The S.H. Ervin Gallery would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following people and organisations in the presentation of the exhibition: Thanks go to the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery and its director Tara Callaghan and Blake Griffiths for their support and assistance in organising the art works from Broken Hill and Wilcannia. We are grateful for the support of Barkindji elder Uncle Badger Bates, who has supported the project along with Indigenous artists from Wilcannia and the non-Indigenous artists in the exhibition. We thank Uncle Badger also for sharing the importance of the Darling/ Barka to the Barkindji people. We are indebted to the many lenders to the exhibition and to the many private galleries including Art Atrium, King Street on William, Kronenberg Mais Wright, Michael Reid Sydney + Berlin, Stella Downer Fine Art, Utopia Art Sydney and Vivian Anderson Gallery, and the exhibiting artists who have generously loaned works for the exhibition. Our thanks go to the 24 exhibiting artists who have embraced the exhibition and have been so supportive in providing the works for the exhibition. We thank them for their dedication and commitment to bringing this environmental disaster to wider attention through their creative expressions. Finally our sincere thanks to the exhibition curator Gavin Wilson, who has championed the exhibition from the very beginning and secured the artists and works for it in an impossibly short timeframe. He has, with the valuable and unstinting support of Maggy Todd, created an exhibition which challenges us all to be pro-active and supportive of the efforts to rectify the disaster occurring in the Murray-Darling Rivers. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to host the exhibition for the people of Sydney.


Project Team Curatorial: Gavin Wilson Maggy Todd S.H. Ervin Gallery Director: Assistant Curator: Catalogue Designer: Event Photographer: Installation:

Jane Watters Katie Yuill, Laura Perritt Laura Perrit Sarah Kukathas, Document Photography Jake van Dugteren, Stuart Watters

This catalogue is copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced without prior permission of the publisher. E-Published to accompany the exhibition: River on the Brink: Inside the Murray-Darling Basin 20 September – 3 November 2019. Opened by Mr Geoff Cousins AM on Thursday 19 September 2019. ISBN: 978-0-6483847-3-1 Published by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) 2013 Watson Road, Observatory Hill, The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000 © National Trust of Australia (NSW) S.H. Ervin Gallery artworks © the artists text © Gavin Wilson

Profile for The National Trusts in Australia

River on the Brink: inside the Murray-Darling Basin eCatalogue  

This catalogue accompanies the National Trust S.H. Ervin Gallery's timely exhibition River on the Brink, curated by Gavin Wilson and present...

River on the Brink: inside the Murray-Darling Basin eCatalogue  

This catalogue accompanies the National Trust S.H. Ervin Gallery's timely exhibition River on the Brink, curated by Gavin Wilson and present...