“My Country”: Indigenous Australian art in Auckland – in pictures

New Zealand’s largest exhibition of contemporary Indigenous Australian art comes to Auckland Art Gallery.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is exhibiting nearly 100 works by 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island artists from 28 March to 20 July 2014. The exhibition, which is New Zealand’s largest ever show of aboriginal art, is called “My Country: Contemporary Art from Black Australia”.

Christian Thompson, 'Black Gum 2', 2008,  Type C photograph on paper, ed. 7/10, 108 x 110 cm; 100 x 100 cm (comp.). Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Christian Thompson, ‘Black Gum 2’, 2008, Type C photograph on paper, ed. 7/10, 108 x 110cm; 100 x 100cm (comp.). Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Australia: Whose country?

My Country” explores the artists’ connection with the land, both current and ancestral. In looking at personal and political experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the exhibition focuses on Indigenous Australia and makes room for alternative historical narratives. Some of the featured artists include:

David Marpoondin, 'Ku' (Camp Dog)', 2010, carved milkwood (Alstonia muellerana) with natural pigments, charcoal, synthetic polymer paint and acrylic binder, 33 x 33 x 15cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

David Marpoondin, ‘Ku’ (Camp Dog)’, 2010, carved milkwood (Alstonia muellerana) with natural pigments, charcoal, synthetic polymer paint and acrylic binder, 33 x 33 x 15cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

The exhibition features a wide variety of artworks and styles, encompassing drawings, paintings, carvings, installations, photography and film, and explores three major themes: indigenous views of history; responses to contemporary politics and experiences; and connections to place. It is curated by Bruce McLean, Indigenous Australian Art Curator at Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Auckland Art Gallery is the only gallery outside Australia to present these works.

Gordon Hookey, 'The Sacred Hill' (detail), 2013, oil on canvas, 25 panels (dimensions variable). Image courtesy the artist.

Gordon Hookey, ‘The Sacred Hill’ (detail), 2013, oil on canvas, 25 panels (dimensions variable). Image courtesy the artist.

Promoting indigenous art

According to Auckland Art Gallery’s Director Rhana Davenport,

“My Country” is presented to coincide with two important exhibitions by Māori artists, “Five Māori Painters” and “Arnold Manaaki Wilson”, to further support and promote indigenous art. The exhibition helps us take a broader world view and gives New Zealanders the chance to explore new territory and cultural diversity through the work of some of Australia’s best contemporary artists.

Warwick Thornton, 'Stranded', 2011, 3D digital video, 11:06 mins, colour, sound, 16:9 widescreen, ed. 1/5. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Warwick Thornton, ‘Stranded’, 2011, 3D digital video, 11m:06s, colour, sound, 16:9 widescreen, ed. 1/5. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Warwick Thornton (b. 1970), an indigenous Australian filmmaker who belongs to the Kaytej community won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009 for his debut film Samson and Delilah. His 2011 project Stranded, created for the gallery space rather than the screen, is a reinterpretation of Christ’s crucifixion, replete with ambiguity and symbolism through still photographs and a 3D film.

Sally Gabori, 'Dibirdibi Country', 2008, synthetic polymer paint on linen, 200 x 600 cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Sally Gabori, ‘Dibirdibi Country’, 2008, synthetic polymer paint on linen, 200 x 600cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Sally Gabori (b. 1924) was born into the Kaiadilt people of Bentinck Island, and is a dedicated practitioner of the traditional crafts of her people. Barely able to speak English, she communicates through her vibrant paintings of contemporary Australian landscapes. Her work was exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.

Tony Albert, "Sorry", 2008, found kitsch objects applied to vinyl letters, 99 objects: 200 x 510 x 10 cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Tony Albert, “Sorry”, 2008, found kitsch objects applied to vinyl letters, 99 objects: 200 x 510 x 10cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Tony Albert (b. 1981) is known for works that question the legacy of colonialism from the perspective of Indigenous Australians. He often uses kitsch and found objects with graphic elements to create his installations.

Bindi Cole, 'I Forgive You', 2012, emu feathers on MDF board, 11 pieces: 100 x 800 cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Bindi Cole, ‘I Forgive You’, 2012, emu feathers on MDF board, 11 pieces: 100 x 800cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Bindi Cole (b. 1975) is a photographer and new media artist from Melbourne, of Wathaurung descent. Her work explores, among other themes, violence and cultural tensions stemming from religion and belief systems, especially Christianity and Aboriginality.

Michael Cook, 'Civilised #13', 2012, Inkjet print on paper, ed. 5/8, 100 x 87.5 cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Michael Cook, ‘Civilised #13’, 2012, Inkjet print on paper, ed. 5/8, 100 x 87.5cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Michael Cook (b. 1968) is an award-winning art photographer who, according to the exhibition press release, creates works that inhabit a “dream world, a timeless place that traverses colonial and contemporary”. He is of the Bidjara community.

Fiona Foley, 'The Oyster Fishermen #1', 2011, Inkjet print on Hahnemuehle paper, ed. 6/15, 60 x 80 cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Fiona Foley, ‘The Oyster Fishermen #1’, 2011, Inkjet print on Hahnemuehle paper, ed. 6/15, 60 x 80cm. Image courtesy Auckland Art Gallery.

Brisbane-based artist, curator and academic Fiona Foley (b. 1964) is of Badtjala descent. Her work encompasses photography, sculpture, moving image, etching and installation. In 2009, the University of Queensland Art Museum and Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art co-curated a survey of her work, entitled “Forbidden”.

Kriti Bajaj

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Related Topics: Australian artists, promoting art, gallery shows, picture feasts, events in New Zealand

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