With an interest in art sparked in fourth grade, it wasn’t until the birth of her daughters that Debbie Taylor Worley started a journey to reconnect to her heritage, resulting in studying art as a mature age student. Her new exhibition Wun-ga-li Ngurrambaa Winanga-li honours her connection to Gamilaraay country.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I’ve had an interest in art ever wince the 4th grade when my teacher, Mr Smith, put a pineapple on his desk and told us all to draw it. After seeing our results he said, “draw what you see, not what you think you see”. From that moment, along with the stash of art books dad had in the hallway cupboard, I was fascinated with creative processes.
In my mid 40’s, I finally had the opportunity to attend art college and was motivated and inspired by the artists that taught within the unit, such as Jennifer Herd, Vernin Ah Kee and Lauri Neilsen. I was introduced to new ways of seeing art and it gave what I was producing greater purpose.
How would you describe your art to someone unfamiliar to it?
It’s everchanging and multidisciplinary, working mainly with clay and textiles. However, common themes that run throughout my work are the dendroglyphs or tree carvings of the Gamilaraay nation and female empowerment.
Using the motifs of the tree carvings provides a link between contemporary practice and my cultural roots. The motifs go hand in hand with images and sculptures to draw attention to the divine feminine and our mother the earth.
I prefer to use materials that are as natural and connected to country as possible. For example, I forage bullrushes when the season is right for weaving fibres, and use ochre from country to colour canvases laid within the landscape.
Your art is influenced by “listening to country”, can you explain how this practice works?
The Gamilaraay word Winanga-li describes a process of listening, hearing, thinking, remembering. It involves sitting in a place and space of deep contemplation and hearing what nature is telling you. It is a way of connecting deeply on a spiritual level. Just as an artist may stare at a blank canvas for days before applying paint to it, I sit on Gamilaraay country and let it speak to me, translating the message intuitively onto the canvas.
What can you tell us about your exhibition at Metro Arts?
This body of work was made at various sites on Gamilaraay country, that are significant in regards to Gamilaraay spirituality and my childhood memories. A trip back to country was made possible by the Windmill trust Scholarship that was awarded to me in 2020. As a result of listening to country, each canvas has been produced beside an important body of water and covered with the surrounding earth, clays and ochres. It highlights the responsibility of Gamilaraay women to protect sacred waters. I believe my ancestors are guiding me on my journey of reconnection to culture and country.
Included in the exhibition is a video work by my young Nephew, Jackson, that documents portions of the journey and the art making process.
Wun-ga-li Ngurrambaa Winanga-li | 6 – 24 July | Gallery One, Metro Arts
Find out more about the exhibition here.
WUN-GA-LI NGURRAMBAA WINANGA-LI
By Debbie Taylor-Worley
Tue 6 – Sat 24 Jul, 2021
3pm, Sat 24 Jul
4-6pm, Sat 24 Jul
Gallery One, Metro Arts
Tue 6 – Fri 9 Jul 7am – 4.30pm
Sat 10 Jul 10am – 9pm
Sun 11 Jul Closed
Mon 12 Jul 7am – 4.30pm
Tue 13 Jul 7am – 4.30 pm
Wed 14 – Fri 16 Jul 7am – 9pm
Sat 17 Jul 10am – 9pm
Sun 18 Jul 5pm – 9pm
Mon 19 – Fri 23 Jul 7am – 4.30pm
Sat 24 Jul 10am – 9pm
Sun 25 Jul Closed