Mad Gap 2006 inscribed 'PB' and bears title and Jirrawun Arts catalogue number PB 3-2006-238 verso natural earth pigments and synthetic binder on linen 122.0 x 135.0cm (48 1/16 x 53 1/8in).
PROVENANCE Jirrawun Arts, Kununurra, Western Australia Private collection
LITERATURE Russell Storer, Paddy Bedford, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2006, p. 105, p. 158 (illus.)
EXHIBITED Paddy Bedford, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 6 December 2006 - 15 April 2007; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 12 May - 22 July 2007; Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria, 11 August - 16 September 2007, University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane, 16 November 2007 - 2 March 2008
Mad Gap, 2006 'the place beyond the cypress pine', elegantly demonstrates Paddy Bedford's mastery of tonal variation and a painterly technique uniquely his own. Like many of the artist's motifs, the subject of Mad Gap was one that Bedford had revisited and reworked throughout his career. Referring to a site located in the southern part of the artist's mother's country, Bedford's early works had relied upon form to define positive and negative space, resulting in flat, monochromatic fields. With time came more complex handling techniques, resulting here in a tactile and densely gestural surface of considerable atmospheric quality. The two central voids within Mad Gap are filled with a turbulent light and shade, creating depth and tension which Bedford's earlier, binary compositions lacked. As in all of the artist's works, the arrangement is framed by a black ochre structure, which here tilts the picture plane to create a vertiginous space which alludes to the steep escarpments of Bedford's country.
As noted by Michiel Dolk, much of the compositional framework which informs the work of artists from Bedford's generation 'stems from the memory of sites and features of the landscape corresponding with stories of the ngarranggarni, which form an evolving repertoire of designs or motifs.'1 Whilst most paintings of the Mad Gap site by other artists are concerned with a Gija myth of how the moon (garnkeny) brought death into the world, Bedford resists conventional interpretations dependent on narrative and place.
Rather we are drawn into the sublime through an elegant manipulation of motif, which is based upon the myths of creation and origin though firmly tethered in the present tense. As Dolk succinctly concludes, 'While registering the history of all that followed in the killing times and station times, PB's (Bedford's) paintings now imaginatively recreate this landscape as a pictorial space in which the memory of ritual is submerged and renewed within the theatre of contemporary art.'2
1. 'Are We Strangers in this Place?' in Michael, L., Paddy Bedford, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney 2006, p. 40 2. ibid. p. 45
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