Contracted by Woolworths to commission local indigenous painter Digby Moran for their latest development in River Street Ballina NSW (Project produced in collaboration with Rebecca Townsend).
Moran’s paintings, inspired by his Bundjalung heritage have been reinterpreted with help of fellow artist and designer Alex Polo. Two of Moran’s cloth paintings have been transformed into a suite of corten steel artwork elements and integrated into the new building façade as window screens. Someone’s Always Watching You depicts Digby’s ancestors from Cabbage Tree Island and Floating through my Spirit Home speaks to the iconic Richmond River.
“As a boy growing up on an island in the Richmond River a wise old spiritual man once told me “no matter what you do someone’s always watching you”. I never really knew what he meant, but now I’m older and wiser I can see for myself what he was trying to tell me. It was his way of telling me that my ancestors’ spirits will always be with me and around me in everything I do in life. It’s really hard to explain these feelings to someone who doesn’t have a connection with their ancestors but I feel it all the time, I always feel protected.
The painting means a lot to me spiritually, I feel the presence of my spiritual ancestors in this painting. These spirits watch over our mob in times of trouble. As soon as I finished the painting I knew it was special. I stood back to look at it and amazingly the five black lines started moving all around the canvas, the more I looked at it the more it happened. This has been the experience of everyone I’ve shown it to. The black lines which outline the figure represent my spirit ancestors moving around in my community just as the lines move around the painting. I always feel them with me in times of need, guiding me and looking over me in my beautiful Bundjalung Country. I feel privileged to have this connection with my ancestors. “
Digby Moran was born in Ballina NSW and grew up on a Cabbage Tree Island mission in the Richmond River. At 16 he left the Island to work in the local cane fields and after a few years joining the Jimmy Sharman Boxing Troupe as his father had done before him. Boxing allowed him to travel extensively but during this time alcohol became a problem. At the age of 42, when he had hit rock bottom, he made the decision to quit.
In 1991 Moran undertook an art course at TAFE and discovered he had a talent for painting. He paints only what he knows and never outside his Bundjalung boundaries, “ you’ll never catch me painting things like barramundi or crocodiles,” he said. Water, especially the ocean is a common theme , “Water is a big part of all Bundjalung Dreaming,” He explains “I have always been a saltwater man.”
Moran has participated in international exhibitions at the Berlin Aboriginal Art Gallery (Germany), the New Media Gallery in Vienna (Austria) and had solo shows at the Museum Hame in Duisburg (Germany) and the NSW Parliament. In 2000 he won the People’s Choice Award at the National Aboriginal and Islander Telstra Art Award at the Northern Territory Art Gallery and was a finalist in The New South Wales Parliament Aboriginal Art Prize in 2011 & 2012.