For Lucy Ward, the concept of ‘footwalking’ is central to the cosmology that defines her life and her artwork. Like Aristotle, Ward’s is a philosophy of the peripatetic. As a young woman, she traversed her Ngarangarri and Winyiduwa clan estates by foot, learning the traditional ways of her people. As an artist, her works reflect this movement, both spiritually and aesthetically. Ward is a prodigious and prolific innovator, continually incorporating new ideas into her work with a sharp-eyed enthusiasm. But on a deeper level, this restless artistic movement can be seen as a metaphor for Ward’s nomadic philosophy. For in the paintings of Lucy Ward, each mark upon the canvas is like a fingerprint, betraying the trace of its creator’s movement. In painting her ancestral homelands – the ‘land of the honey dream’ – her marks reveal her ownership of the country, like footprints in a landscape that she has traversed by foot, understood instinctively and known intimately. But just like a footprint, they exist as the memory of presence, a nostalgic echo of past travels.
Aristotle and his followers were known as the Peripatetics for their habit of meeting in the Lyceum and walking whilst lecturing. They met in the colonnade because Aristotle was not a citizen of Athens, and could therefore, not own property. Similarly, in the wake of colonial incursion, Indigenous elders like Ward cannot live on their traditional lands, but return only occasionally to tend to the country of which they are the sacred custodians. Returning to her sacred sites, Ward sings out to the spirits, warning them of her arrival. Her song echoes through the stony ridges and it is as though she is a young woman again. It is this memory of the landscape that reveals itself in Ward’s paintings. Each mark connects Ward to her landscape, making her one with the Dreams, songs and topography of her land of honey. They are what Marcia Langton has described as “site markers of the remembering process and of identity itself” as they inhabit a temporality that is neither past, present nor future, but part of the sacred link that connects Ward to the timeless Ngarranggarni or Dreaming.