Judith Wright began her artistic career as a classical dancer in the Queensland Ballet (1966–1970) but was later drawn to the visual arts. Not surprisingly, her artworks are deeply emotive and reflective of the human form, revealing her knowledge of the theatre and performance. She is sensitive to the body, emotion, scale, and the placement of objects in space. Incorporating various mediums, her artworks appear otherworldly, exploring imagery and generating sensations related to the fragility of life, love, loss, and grief.

Wright’s inclusion in this exhibition is itself an uncanny occurrence. In late 2018, without any precursory insight or knowledge of the exhibition title, Wright began a new series of work collectively titled Second Sight (2018–2019). Her paintings resonate with ‘witch symbolism’ and potent elements of nature. The series was inspired by characters and symbols that frequently appear to her in dreams, including a head with many eyes. Wright follows these illusory creatures in cycles of thought, making them visible through drawing, painting, sculpture, and installation.

A strong, recurring image across Wright’s practice, and evident here, is the ‘Tree of Life,’ whose hanging fruit symbolise male genitalia. From the end of the thirteenth century to the early sixteenth century, artistic depictions of the phallus tree in relation to witch folklore were prevalent.1

Wright is acutely aware of the humour and trauma connected to folklore imagery of the ‘phallus tree.’2

Judith Wright (b. 1945 Brisbane, Queensland) lives and works in Brisbane. She has a Master of Fine Arts from Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane (2002). Recent solo exhibitions include In the Garden of Good and Evil, Queensland Art Gallery I Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Brisbane (2018); Fragments from the Garden of Good and Evil, FOXJENSEN, Sydney (2018), and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne (2018); and Lines of Confluence, Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne (2017). Significant group exhibitions include Other People Think, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland (2018); A World View, QAGOMA, Brisbane (2016); Lurid Beauty, National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Melbourne (2015); and All our relations, 18th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney (2012). Her work will also be included in forthcoming group exhibition Here we are at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney (2019). Wright’s works are held in a number of national and international collections, such as AGNSW, Sydney; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; NGV, Melbourne; QAGOMA, Brisbane; and Kawaguchi Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan.

  1. Johan Mattelaer, “The phallus tree: A Medieval and Renaissance phenomenon,” The Journal of Sexual Medicine 7: 846–851, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01668.x.
  2. Judith Wright in conversation with UQ Art Museum, December 2018.  

Judith Wright
Second Sight 2018–2019
Three works on Japanese paper, acrylic and wax
200 x 200 cm each
Installation view Second Sight, UQ Art Museum
Courtesy of the artist, Fox Jensen, Sydney and Sophie Gannon, Melbourne
Photo: Carl Warner