It’s hard to walk past Naomi Hobson’s vibrant painting that adorns its own wall in the 2023 Wynne Prize selection. With her trademark patchwork style of abstraction, this work, and along with all of her paintings fuse storytelling and colour blocking in a way that makes her work, Golden Wattle Among Eucalyptus glimmer from the white walls of the Art Gallery of NSW. This work is part of a slew of paintings the artist has created for Arthouse Gallery in Sydney for her exhibition, Language of the Land. Along with paintings, she has also created photography and ceramics as part of this exhibition - proving her talent for storytelling and creativity extends to other multidisciplinary mediums.
It’s difficult to not get excited when an artist such as Naomi comes along. Hailing from the Kaantju/Umpila language group, she grew up in the small township of Coen, on the Cape York Peninsula in Northern Queensland. She is inspired by her Country and uses her own, very unique way of inviting those who view her work into her world. She is part of the Avant Garde of First Nations artists pushing their storytelling into new directions. Her mark making is abstract and bold in its occupation of the canvas. Her symbols are crammed into the space she gives them, overlapping and layered one over another. The underpainting of the symbols are larger, loosely formed symbols. Her colour choices for these are bold, bright and always seem to compliment one another. This process gives her paintings a patchwork quilt style effect - of symbols sewn together to create one distinct story.
Her palette originates from her personal view of her Country, and she doesn’t just see colour, she also feels it. “I feel colour, just like I feel culture. I am immersed in colour all the time; I live it and breathe it. I see after travelling how bright and colourful my country is.” For Hobson, her paintings are a direct reflection of what she sees and embody the stories of her Country and and her ancestors.
Her art making plays catalyst to the preservation and the remembering of her heritage. By capturing her own response to living things in her world, she is able to uncover what is hidden to most. She sees and feels messages marked in nature by a presence that has long gone from the land, but that she still connects with. Through this process, she is able to remember and preserve the stories and her culture that have been threatened and at times lost to the tide of history. Hobson is a true artist and someone who has always been driven to make marks and leave them behind for others. “I have always had a strong intent to communicate to the world through colour and my marks”.
Naomi is currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery as part of Portrait 23 until 18 June and at the Art Gallery of New South Wales as a finalist in the prestigious Wynne Prize until 3 September 2023. Her exhibition Language of the Land is on display at Arthouse Gallery in Sydney until June 10 2023.