Journey of Emotion: Julie Dowling's Stations of the Cross

This project investigates how contemporary visual artists are using emotional responses to their artworks to explore and challenge the early history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural relationships.

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The project focuses on the art practice of contemporary Indigenous artist and Badimaya woman Julie Dowling, and specifically her series of interpretation of the Stations of the Cross. In traditional liturgical practice, the Stations of the Cross structure devotional prayers and meditations around significant events in the final days and hours of the life of Jesus. By the seventeenth century, the Stations of the Cross were associated with a clear religious narrative usually depicted through a series of paintings or sculptures found in almost all Roman Catholic churches around Europe. Completed in 2005 and acquired by the National Gallery of Australia, Dowling’s interpretation of the Stations of the Cross is a striking retelling that depicts scenes of social and political injustice in the Indigenous community. The research project investigates Dowling’s intentional use of emotion and empathy to communicate social, political and cultural meaning and intentions to her viewers.


C.Czerw (Curator): 22 March–1 April 2013, ‘Stations of the Cross’, Wesley Uniting Church in the City, Perth.

Participating Artists: Toby Bell, Robert Birch, Victor France, Marie Hobbs, Peggy Lyon, Anne McCaughey, Brian McKay, Peter Saxon, Annette Seeman, Cathy Swioklo, John Teschendorff, Natalia Triviño Lozano, Jane Whiteley, Lauren Wilhelm and Andrea Vinkovic. Partner: Wesley Uniting Church in the City. The challenge put to the artists was to share their personal thoughts and ideas around the meaning of Easter in a newly created artwork. The result was a visually powerful and often emotionally moving exhibition comprised of a fascinating collection of visual interpretations that tackle some of the most complex aspects of the human condition; namely the journey of life and death that lie at the heart of Easter.


2012 ‘The Enduring Pleasure of Art’. In Still Life/Our Life: Emotions Across Time, Art and Place, edited by S. Broomhall and R. Millar. For ‘Still Life/Our Life: The Zest Festival’, Kalbarri June 2012


2015: ‘Julie Dowling: The Aesthetics of Empathy’, Art Lecture Series at Central Institute of Technology for the University of the Third Age.

2013: ‘Emotional Rescue: The Role of Emotion in Guiding Artworks’, workshop for Volunteer Guides of Art Gallery of Western Australia.


Image: Julie Dowling, Badimaya/Widi/Yamatji peoples, Is stripped naked (left), Dies on the cross (centre), Meets the women (right) from the series Stations of the Cross, 2005, oil on canvas 60 x 40 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra © Julie Dowling.