Part 2: Important Aboriginal Art
27 November 2013


(c.1922 - 2007)

natural earth pigments and synthetic binder on linen

150.0 x 180.0 cm

signed with initials verso: PB
inscribed verso: title and Jirrawun Aboriginal Arts cat. PB 9 2001.120

$120,000 - 150,000

Jirrawun Aboriginal Arts, Kununurra
GrantPirrie Gallery, Sydney (label attached verso)
Collection of Paul and Sandra Ferman, Sydney


Paddy Bedford, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 6 December 2006 – 15 April 2007


Storer, R., Paddy Bedford, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2006, pp. 86-87, 151 (illus.)

Catalogue text

Paddy Bedford was a Gija man of the Jawalyi skin, born at Bedford Downs Station in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. Bedford grew up on Bedford Downs where he began work as a stockman. After working on cattle stations for many decades Bedford, together with many indigenous station workers was forced to leave Bedford Downs in the early 1970s - an unintended consequence of the 1969 Pastoral Award legislation giving equal wages to indigenous and non-indigenous stockmen. Bedford moved to the Warmun Aboriginal community at Turkey Creek in the mid 1970s, and in 1998, began painting for the Jirrawun Aboriginal Arts Corporation (later Jirrawun Arts) established by Freddie Timms and Tony Oliver at Rugun (Crocodile Hole), 60 kilometers north of Warmun.

Devil Dreaming, Joowarringayin depicts the site of Donkey Spring located in the Leopold Range close to the old Elgee Cliffs Station. Located southwest of Bedford Downs, the area is characterised by a creek bed running between high, sheer cliffs and significantly, is associated with Bedford's mother who was born nearby at Wirndoowoon. Completed in 2001 the painting is catalogued as painting 120 in Bedford's chronological index of works and according to the artist, this a place of a 'dangerous Devil Devil Dreaming'.1

In the catalogue to his retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney in 2006-07 Bedford recalled that 'this is a place of spirits, the 'devil devil'.' It has two names Birdibany and Joowarringayin 'the place of the devil devil' Yes that's the place where all the spirit beings live, Birdbany. They are all sitting there in every shade looking out. They don't like strangers who go there, they kill them. People who are country owners, people who belong there are alright'.. No one goes there now. Nobody. My forefathers used to live there, not now. All the people who walked in the country died long ago. Birbany callerd Joowarringayin 'the place of spirits', is where the spirits used to sit in every shade looking out long time ago.'2

It is important to note that the complex narratives in Bedford's works intertwine family stories, historical events and a deep connection to his country, often masked by the simple, bold starkness of his technique. As curator Russell Storer observes, 'his paintings articulate a complex dialectic between modern materials and traditional pictorial conventions, contemporary experience and ancient belief systems.'3

1. Storer, R., Paddy Bedford, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2006 p. 134
2. Ibid., p. 86
3. Ibid., p. 11