• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7653

    Modern and Contemporary Australian and South African Art

    16 December 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 78

    Paddy Nyunkuny Bedford (c.1922-2007)

    Police Rock Hole (2002)

    Price Realised  


    Paddy Nyunkuny Bedford (c.1922-2007)
    Police Rock Hole (2002)
    with inscription 'POLICE ROCKHOLE PB 8 2002-137. PADDY BEDFORD. JIRRAWUN A.A.C. GRANT PIRRIE EXHIBITION. PB' on the reverse, with inscription 'PB014 PB R.A.G.N.S.W.' on the stretcher
    ochres and pigment with acrylic binder on Belgian linen
    48 x 53 1/8in. (122 x 135cm.)

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    'Bedford was born circa 1922 on Bedford Downs Station in the East Kimberley. A few years beforehand, Paddy Quilty, the owner of the station (and the man who gave Paddy Bedford his 'Christian' name), was responsible for the murder by strychnine poisoning of a group of Gija men who had killed a milking cow. This massacre has weighed heavily on Bedford throughout his life. He and fellow Jirrawun founder, Timmy Timms (now deceased), were able to recall a corroboree (or joonba) which told the story of the killings. The corroboree, which had never before been seen by a white audience, became the basis of a performance piece, Fire fire burning bright, presented by the Neminuwarlin Performance Group from the East Kimberley at the Perth and Melbourne festivals in 2002.

    The massacre also became the subject of a series of paintings by the Jirrawun group that were shown in the exhibitions 'Blood on the Spinifex', at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Melbourne, and 'True Stories: The Art of the East Kimberley', at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney, both 2003. With the support of Jirrawun patron and former Governor-General of Australia Sir William Deane, the artists aimed through these paintings to have their stories accepted by white Australia. The exhibitions were a powerful reply to revisionist historians such as Keith Windschuttle, author of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History (2002) whose work had thrown into question the veracity of such massacres as the one at Bedford Downs Station.' (J. Eccles, Jirrawun: a unique model, in Art & Australia, vol. 44, I, Spring 2006)

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    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Private collection, Vancouver, Canada.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Paddy Bedford, Sydney, 2007 (MOCA exhibition catalogue), pp.93 and 152 (illustrated in colour).


    Sydney, GRANTPIRRIE, Significant Paintings, 2002 ('This body of work, as always, reflects the land and its spirits, both good and the bad. His land is drenched in the atrocities of white settlement and the history of his own people. He tells the stories of massacres and dreamings, of caryards and emus. There is a certain urgency of story telling apparent in the vigorous brush strokes, as though he is compelled to speak', G. Serisier in the exhibition catalogue).
    (probably) Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, True Stories: Art of the East Kimberley, 2003.