Naomi Hobson

Naomi Hobson’s current show at Suzanne O’Connell Gallery represents both an obvious shift in her practice – from painting to photography, images on the verge of abstraction to documentary-style work – and a continuing commitment to celebrating her culture and community.

The first thing that is surprising about Naomi Hobson’s Ritual – January First, currently exhibiting at Suzanne O’Connell Gallery, is that it is a show of photographs. Hobson, who has long painted intuitive, brightly coloured and somewhat abstracted landscapes (as described by the artist herself for Artist Profile), has become well-known for this work. Collected by the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, and others, her paintings have explored the ongoing embeddedness of culture in Country around the Cape York area, home to Kaantju Umpila, LamaLama, Ayapathu, Wik Mungkan and Olkola groups. 

Of her new work, Hobson says that “I feel a need and an urge to document life and the camera is a brilliant tool for it. My art reflects my people, my community, and country. Who we are as people, what humanity really looks like, and where it came from; 50 thousand years of living, everything honest and grounded in culture.” The series of photographs documents local First Nations people celebrating together, in what Hobson calls “a custom related to new beginnings.” Called “Auwa,” in Hobson’s language, the celebration welcomes new beginnings and relationships; that is, it signifies a community always moving forward. Individuals and families are pictured in homes, holding one another, cherished objects, or pets. Clothes are bright and jubilant, teeming with life, and faces are often painted. Figures spring form the backgrounds of the images with verve. 

This show may represent a significant formal shift for Hobson, but there is an essential continuity between her photographs and her paintings. On the show, Hobson says that “every person in my photographs has their own story to tell, because many of us came from a place where black people never had this opportunity to tell our real stories, on our terms. Nobody can tell our story better than ourselves.” No matter the medium, this storytelling – this record-keeping and record-making for long-standing and living cultures – is one of Hobson’s great achievements.  

Ritual – January First 
By appointment from October 2021
Suzanne O’Connell Gallery, Brisbane

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