Gija language. Born c.1922. Died 2OO7.
Celebrated as one of Australia’s most important artists, Paddy Bedford was also a Lawman of the greatest authority amongst his Gija people. Bedford was born c. 1922 in the remote and majestic country of Bedford Downs Station in the East Kimberley region of northwestern Australia. It was from the station that he gained his surname, his first name coming from the severe Australian Station Master, Paddy Quilty, the man believed responsible for the massacre of a group of Bedford’s kin a few years earlier. This undercurrent of colonial violence was ever present in Bedford’s work. Along with artist Timmy Timms, he was integral to the development of the landmark exhibition Blood on the Spinifex, held at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne in 2OO2. The exhibition brought the memory of station massacres into disquieting view, and propelled Bedford’s work to national acclaim. Bedford spent much of his life working as a stockman, or ranch hand, before starting to paint in 1998 when he was in his late seventies. His earliest works conformed closely to the East Kimberley style pioneered by Rover Thomas and Paddy Jaminji in the early 198Os. Bedford quickly mastered the style, fashioning his own distinctive blend of austerity, meandering line and stark color combinations. Bedford introduced a new expressionism to East Kimberley painting. In 2OO6, he was the subject of a major touring retrospective organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. His works are held in most major collections in Australia, as well as important collections in Europe and American. In 2OO4, he was one of eight artists invited to create designs to adorn the Muse’ e du quai Branly in Paris.