Acclaimed photographer, environmental activist, horse lover and TAFE teacher Ruby Davies is currently showing her first solo painting exhibition, Sensible Objects, at the Fire Station Arts Centre. Ruby tells how she has come to find her home at the mid-point between her early years in Wilcannia and many years spent later in Sydney.
Did you always know you were going to be an artist?
Hindsight is an interesting thing – but we seem to live life one discovery at a time. So apart from drawing heaps and being fascinated with colour as a kid, it was all the mystery of life’s twists and turns.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an artist?
When a photographic image formed in my head of the people of Wilcannia standing in the dry riverbed of the Darling River, at first I was scared that it was far too much for me to attempt. The image persisted and I realised what was in my head had to be acted upon. I aimed to enter the work in the National Photographic Portrait Prize as a portrait of a river and a town. The resulting image was a finalist in the exhibition in Canberra and has been purchased by the Australian National Gallery and the Parliament House Gallery.
How do you define success as an artist?
Success is to be still making art – discovering new reasons to create an image, chasing an idea, finding ways of enticing an image to emerge.
What’s been your most memorable or defining moment as an artist?
Starting and completing a Masters Thesis (USYD 2005) was a big thing. Investigating the history and images of the Darling River led me to a deeper understanding of the active resistance of Aboriginal people to invasion by squatters, driven in turn be the mercantile ambitions of the British Empire.
So now I see that rolling pastures, images of ‘settled’ pastoral Australia, contain other violent histories, which are reemerging in Indigenous artworks and being seen in a wider Australian and international context.
What keeps you in Dubbo?
On a personal level, I’m halfway between my early home near Wilcannia and years spent in Sydney – the midpoint of a pathway travelled many times over many years!
Nothing is further than 10 minutes by car. There’s an active art community, farming community, horse people, theatre people.
Seeing the expanse of the sky, knowing what the moon is doing is inspiring. And for those who know me, having my horses near to me is a huge bonus.
- As told to Paige Williams
>> Sensible Objects explores the fluidity of oil paint, the solidity and sometimes-precarious balance of everyday objects. It is open at the Fire Station Arts Centre until October 4.