Albert (Digby) Moran is one of the Northern Rivers’ most recognised artists. Growing up on The Island is a major solo exhibition by an artist continually seeking new ways to express his place within Bundjalung land.
Moran was born in Ballina and raised on Cabbage Tree Island. His father was Dungutti and his mother Bundjalung.
Moran’s life is divided into two parts, before he started painting, and after. He worked in agriculture and even as a boxer with Jimmy Sharman’s troupe before he turned his hand to painting. In 1991 he undertook an art course through TAFE which launched his career as an artist. Painting provided a vehicle to express his stories with a strong focus on his time at Cabbage Tree Island.
The work is strongly linked to Digby’s childhood and mostly happy memories, with his close and loving family: playing in the sand and on the river banks, swimming and fishing.
‘Sometimes someone comes in to the studio [and] tells me I’ve been laughing while I’m painting. I don’t realise, but it’s because I’m thinking about some memory. Like when I was little and my brothers would put me in our little boat and they’d have a rope and they’d push me out into the river then pull me back in again, over and over, with me laughing so much and getting right up on the back of the boat. I remember things like that and I just bust up laughing. I’m thinking about those times a lot now when I’m painting happy memories.’
Digby also remembers the old people’s warnings around sites where bad things happened. He says ‘places where the old ones would tell you “don’t go there”. They knew what happened there but it was too much for them, too sad to talk about.’ Now Digby realises these were massacre sites.
Moran’s studio was badly affected by the 2017 Lismore floods, losing most of his materials, and much work. This exhibition is the result of a burst of creativity Moran has undergone since the floods and will be a true celebration of an artist with undeterred resilience:
‘In this exhibition is some new work I painted this year and after the flood and some older works. Some are fine works where I use brushes and sticks to paint. There are the older dot works and the swirling lines and dots that are water patterns, and the works with diamond shapes like on the Bundjalung clubs. I use a fine brush and cut the hairs back. Lately I’ve been using my hands swirling in the wet paint, like playing in the water and mud as a kid. The next ones could be something different, I never know.’
As part of this exhibition, Lismore Regional Gallery has commissioned local film-maker Karenza Ebejer to create a short documentary on Digby, and his practice. This film will be shown alongside the works, and provide an intimate glimpse into this gifted artist.
Growing Up On The Island
Lismore Regional Gallery, 11 Rural Street, Lismore.
1 September – 14 October 2018
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 4pm, Thursday 10am – 6pm.
Albert (Digby) Moran in conversation with Brett Adlington: 11am Thursday September 20.