HJ Wedge sees and paints with the intensity of childhood.His art bristles with daring forms and colours seen with his inner eye – they have neither been taught to Wedge, nor are they appropriated. He pictures his dreams and nightmares in cryptic, comic-book images that are not only humorous and shocking, but also disarmingly accurate in their portrayal of Wedge’s experience as a member of the dispossessed Wiradjuri nation, growing up on the Erambie mission. His visionary paintings are a product of the energetic political climate in Sydney in the late 1980s and 1990s, which led to the establishment of both the Eora Centre for Visual and Performing Arts and Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, setting the stage for Wedge’s explosive entry on to the contemporary Australian art scene.
As a streetwise Wiradjuri man, failed by the education system, Wedge saw straight into the heart of darkness and cried out against the racism and injustice that he experienced and that still exists in Australia. He explained each work in direct, plain-speaking Aboriginal English. Thus Blind faith ‘exposes the suffering and betrayal that has occurred ever since white settlement landed in this great land of ours’, with ‘soldiers escorting the tribesmen as they were chained up like dogs away from their homes to be locked up and die in prison’ and ‘men, women and children being killed because they placed their trust in the strangers but the strangers like a snake blinded them with false promises and false hopes’. The demoniacal snake, like barbed wire threaded through the eyes of Indigenous Australians, shocks the viewer to rage against this image of modern evil,exposed in a disquieting vision of Blakean intensity. This is a song, not of innocence but of experience, that forces us to contemplate questions of good and evil and the human spirit.