Bridget Inder is a Melbourne based contemporary artist originally from Central Otago where she received her MFA from Otago Polytechnic in 2010. Her work is deeply connected to her sense of place and an intense love of the land that makes up part of her hybridised identity of strong Pakeha and Samoan heritage. The warm, earthy tones of her earlier work are in direct reference to the Maniototo landscape in Central Otago where she grew up; capturing the reds of the sunsets, the ochre of the hills and the purplish hue they take on when covered in snow. Embedded in these vast abstract landscapes are delicately painted fragments of detailed patterns similar to those found in traditional tapa cloth.
The relationship between these elements is further contrasted by means of matte and shiny surfaces, using them to explore the tension of existing between two cultural spheres and simultaneous but different ways of viewing the world for people from mixed cultural backgrounds. Her compositions play with the idea of context being just as or more important than the individual elements, linking this directly to the Samoan concept of Va’a, which dictates the way relationships are conducted between people, with the focus being more on the relationship than the individuals themselves.
Growing up, Inder had two dreams; one was to be a famous artist and the other to play rugby for Otago. As a child all she wanted to do was draw and she would use any paper she could get my hands on, pulling down the posters in her room to draw on the reverse side. At nine years old, her talent was recognised by a teacher’s aide who offered to teach Inder oil painting. She continued to paint at high school under the guidance of an incredibly supportive art teacher. At this point she had little awareness of printmaking as it wasn’t offered at her small, rural high school. She admired the work of art heroes Michel Tuffery and John Pule yet didn’t understand why she couldn’t achieve the same quality of line and surface texture in her paintings. Only later did she learn it was because they were prints.
Arriving at Otago Polytechnic, she felt validated in her choice of art school when she saw one of Tuffery’s prints on the studio wall. She was fortunate enough to have tutors Marilyn Webb and Chris de Jong, who inspired the creative direction and development of her work. Webb was an absolute mentor in every sense of the word, who took her under her wing during her undergrad studies and, after retiring from undergrads, tutored Inder as her final and only master’s student. With the privilege of having Webb’s sole attention, Inder produced a stunning series of huge monoprints for her master’s show. Making them was a physically demanding process which required two people to roll out the ink standing at opposite ends of the glass, pushing and pulling the meter long roller between them. Once the ink was blended, Inder would roll it out on a large piece of MDF board and put it through the press. She would then clean the board and apply dashes of ink mixed with large amounts of tack reducer, before putting it through the press again.
Pushing ink to its limits to achieve varying qualities of texture is central to her arts practice. She was fascinated by the way the metallic ink behaved chemically with other pigments, reacting differently each time to create an element of chance. In contrast to painting, the loss of control and spontaneity in her printmaking practice allows for a lot of experimentation. After graduating, she started to establish herself, exhibiting in group shows and lecturing first year students at Otago Art School. However, she found herself questioning her pursuit of an academic art career, and instead choose to follow her other childhood dream of playing rugby for Otago. Although many people were shocked by her choice, she believes this hiatus taught her valuable lessons that could be applied to her arts practice. Being a female athlete at an elite level meant learning how to be disciplined, work hard, manage her time, not take anything for granted and that everything will fall into place. When she was younger, she often felt hindered by a lack of confidence to assert herself as a solo artist but is now less worried about the politics of the art world, making it much easier to navigate.
Since retiring from rugby in 2019, her goal has been to build up a profile in Melbourne by putting together a new body a work, participate in group exhibitions and submit proposals for solo shows. She has reached out to a few open access studios, such as Firestation Print Studios, which have been friendly and welcoming. Melbourne has a strong print community with a real appreciation for traditional printmaking with a lot of dedicated print galleries selling high quality work. She has exhibited at Black Dot Gallery, a first nations gallery in Brunswick, and will be part of a group show at Mothership Studios in Sydney in August. In her recent series of monoprints vibrant strokes of red are deliberately used to link her homeland of Maniototo, which translates to flowing blood, with the Australian red soil of her current home. It’s an acknowledgement that the land she is walking on is drenched with indigenous blood. Ultimately, these works make a statement about bloodlines, the sense of belonging to land and that land is our ultimate ancestor.
Firestation Print Studio
Blak Dot Gallery