Trawlwoolway artist Julie Gough is a descendant of Aboriginal leaders in Tasmania including Woretemoeteyenner (c.1790–1847), a Trawlwoolway woman from Tebrikunna in north east Lutruwita (Tasmania), and Mannalargenna (c.1775–1835), leader of the Plangermaireener. Gough creates works of art that often draw on the histories of her ancestors. She does not shy away from speaking the truth. Her works of art explore and expose forgotten histories and challenge the established colonial narrative perpetuated in Australia’s national story.
Gough’s studies of pre-history archaeology equip her with the foundational skills of working with the archive – investigating, gathering, trawling through and analysing historical records. Working with the colonial archive, Gough likens herself to a detective; her forensic approach has sustained her art practice for the past twenty-five years. Working closely with historic texts and material collections Gough creates installations, site-specific works, sound and video, and is a leading academic. Her work challenges the one-sidedness of the colonial archive as a national story and considers the ways in which the past continues to shape the present.
Articles and Books
Cumpston, Nici. Tarnanthi 2021. Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 2021.
Franks, Rachel. “Governor Arthur's Proclamation to the Aborigines.” State Library of New South Wales. Accessed 7 September, 2021.
Harmon, Steph. “Murders, massacres and the black war: Julie Gough’s horrifying journey in colonial genocide.” The Guardian. 28 June, 2019.
Gough, Julie. “The chase: Finding the hidden figures of history.” Art Monthly Australasia. May, 2017, i298, p56-61.
Gough, Julie. Dark Secrets/Home Truths. Exhibition Catalogue. Melbourne: Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi. September, 1996.
Judd, Craig. “Julie Gough: Tense Past.” Artlink.11 October, 2019.
National Museum of Australia. “The Black Line.”National Museum of Australia. Accessed 7 September, 2021.
Sheils, Julie."Julie Gough’s ‘Tense Past’ reminds us how the brutalities of colonial settlement are still felt today", The Conversation, June 24, 2019.
Strzelecki, Gloria. “Julie Gough, The Promise II.” AGSA Magazine, i45, Summer, 2021.
Watts, Richard. “Review: Julie Gough: Tense Past, TMAG (Dark Mofo).” Artshub. 12 June, 2019.
Art and Australia.“Confrontation of our Tense Past for a Conscious Present”. Accessed 7 September, 2021.
Australian War Memorial. “Governor Davey’s Proclamation to the Aborigines (1816).” Accessed 7 September, 2021.
Julie Gough. Artist website. Accessed 7 September, 2021.
“In the Making: Julie Gough.” Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. 13 July, 2021.
“Julie Gough: Tense Past.” Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. 14 June, 2019.
“This Place – Artist Series – Julie Gough.” National Gallery of Australia. 24 February, 2020.
- Gough’s Trawlwoolway ancestry and the incomplete stories of her ancestors from the Tasmanian colonial archive is a vital part of her art making. Research Tasmanian history and the impact European invasion had on Aboriginal people, including the Black War of the 1820s. You might begin by finding out more about Gough’s ancestors specifically, Woretemoeteyenner and Mannalargenna.
- Gough represents histories in new ways that force us to ask questions and re-evaluate Australian history and culture today. After you have researched Tasmanian history, share your findings with your family and class. What aspect did you find shocking that perhaps you or your family were not aware of previously?
Hear from Trawlwoolway artist Julie Gough. Recorded live at our Educator Connect event on November 5th 2021.
Hear from Trawlwoolway artist Julie Gough, who will speak about her installation for Tarnanthi titled Psychoscape on display in Gallery 8 at AGSA. Recorded live at our Educator Connect event on November 5th 2021.
For Psychoscape (2021), Gough has delved into the Art Gallery of South Australia’s collection of Tasmanian colonial paintings and furniture. In reconfiguring a selection of objects – a chair, sewing table, couch, wooden box, console, sideboard and card table, as well as watercolours, oil paintings, sketches and prints – Gough is working with the residue of history; “we are what we use, it defines us.”
Psychoscape recasts these historic representations of Tasmania, no longer inert relics of a previous time but as testimonial evidence:
Visiting places depicted in colonial art, our lands accrued by outsiders, is like walking through a crime scene. Country is a victim, pummeled, bled dry, infested with cattle and sheep, crops and weeds from another hemisphere. These are psychoscapes, shadows of Country.
Central to Psychoscape is the standalone installation Promise II (2019-2021). A haunting shadow play, its silhouette figures – cut in kangaroo skin and cast onto the wall through the frame of an inverted chair – reference the nearby imagery of Governor Davey’s 1816 ‘Proclamation to the Aborigines’ (c. 1878). This sketch was modelled on the proclamation boards commissioned by Governor George Arthur between 1828 and 1830, when frontier violence between Tasmanian Aboriginal people and colonists was at a peak and British martial law and the Black Line was introduced. At the time, the boards were considered conciliatory. They attempted to describe the concept of equal justice for Tasmania’s First Peoples under British law. However, as its first sequence of pictograms portrays, “Aboriginal people were offered protection through the rule of law but only in exchange for a radical transformation to European ways.”
In The Promise II, Gough has turned the domestic dangerous, the familiar uncanny. As the chair and kangaroo skin cast their spectres onto the wall, they are transformed into objects of truth-telling:
I’m painfully aware of… the politics of now. It is more dangerous to work with the topic of now than it is, in a sense, working with then. But the then that I’m working with has been left behind too soon.
Julie Gough, “In the Making: Julie Gough”, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 13 July, 2021, 9:38mins,
Julie Gough, Tarnanthi 2021, Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 2021, p60.
Desmond Manderson quoted in “Governor Davey’s Proclamation to the Aborigines (1816)”, Australian War Memorial, accessed 7 September, 2021,
Julie Gough, “In the Making: Julie Gough.”
- Gough works with archives – investigating, gathering, trawling through and analysing historical records. Visit Trove online, where you can explore collections from galleries, libraries and museums across Australia. Enter specific word searches like place names and date to find a historical and perhaps lesser known story connected to the place, people or traditional custodians where you live. Research everything you can about this story. Create a work of art about this story.
- The shadow play installation Promise II consists of silhouette figures – cut in kangaroo skin and cast onto the wall through the frame of an inverted chair. Create an installation that references an aspect of Australian history. Include shadow, silhouettes and light as your medium.
- Create a collaborative installation using works of art made by each student in the class that represent something about who they are, their family, values or cultural background.
Malahide is large-scale sculpture by Julie Gough and is made from 108 pieces of coal, strung together over found antlers. The work takes its name from a colonial property, Malahide, in Fingal, Tasmania, a place that, like the sculpture’s materials, has born witness to Australia’s early contact history.
Gough is innately drawn to coal as a material, with both sides of her family involved in its mining, in Tasmania but also in Scotland. Extracted from cavernous places, the coal exposes truths that have been buried deeply under the earth. The deer antlers become representative of hunt trophies adorned on walls in houses and the forced removal of Aboriginal people from their Country by colonists.
In this work, Gough translates the usually intimate scale of the Tasmanian shell necklace making tradition to create a heavy sculpture, that carries the weight and burden of Australia’s shared histories. Steeped in multiple meanings, the work serves to memorialise, remember, and uncover the forgotten.
Written by Associate Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait, Gloria Strzelecki
- Before reading the wall label or any information about Malahide,look closely at the work and describe what you see. What is this work of art made from? Make a list of words to describe the materials, what would the materials be like if you were to touch them?
- Investigate coal mining in Australia. What are the impacts of coal mining on the environment, people’s health and the economy? Research some alternative clean energy solutions which Australia could adopt. Write a letter to your Environmental Minister outlining your concerns regarding coal mining in Australia and why other methods is a good idea for our climate.
- Malahide references the Tasmanian shell necklace making which are usually intimate and delicate in scale and material. In contrast Malahide is large and heavy. Imagine what it would be like to wear this neckpiece. What is Gough communicating about Australian history? Now look at the neckpiece by Lola Greeno. Discuss how scale and materials changes the way you respond to a work of art
- Compare Malahide to the oversized river reed neckpieces or Ancestral Memory 2, 2019,(a large glass eel trap) made by Maree Clarke. Why do you think both artists chose to increase the scale of these objects? How are Clarke and Gough communicating similar ideas about the enduring culture Aboriginal people?
- Gough’s influence and inspiration comes from the people, stories, places, skills and connections to her maternal Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage. Create a sculpture that tells the audience the history of your family and who you are.
Tarnanthi Artist Interview: Julie Gough
Gloria Strzelecki discusses the installation by Julie Gough as part of Tarnanthi
Educator Connect - Tarnanthi 2021
First Fridays Artist Talk - Julie Gough
Tarnanthi is presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia with Principal Partner BHP and support from the Government of South Australia
The Gallery’s Learning programs are supported by the Department for Education.
This education resource has been developed and written in collaboration with Dr. Belinda Howden, Kylie Neagle, Dr. Lisa Slade and Gloria Strzelecki.