From the Director: Putting Marvel in the Museum

 

The comic book is one of the most ubiquitous and influential pop cultural artefacts of the twentieth century. Coming of age in an era of unprecedented global upheaval, the comic book Super Hero flourished in the wake of two world wars and was again pressed into action during the Cold War. Teams of champions assembled, expanded and evolved over decades and into the twenty-first century. At the very moment visual effects technology caught up with the world-changing powers deployed by these hand-drawn protagonists, their stories began to be adapted for live-action film.

The characters we see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have their roots in the Silver Age of Comics, spanning the late 1950s and the 1960s, when a fruitful partnership between artist Jack Kirby and writer Stan Lee at Marvel Comics gave rise to the memorable characters Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Ant-Man and Black Panther. They also enlisted Captain America, who Kirby had created with Joe Simon in 1941, to join their supergroup, the Avengers. The final issue of the short-lived title Amazing Fantasy introduced the Steve Ditko-drawn Spider-Man. Around the same time, Ditko debuted Doctor Strange in the pages of Strange Tales, while Lee, Don Rico and Don Heck welcomed Black Widow in Tales of Suspense.

Ryan Meinerding / Captain America / Concept art for Captain America: The First Avenger 2011 / © MARVEL 2017

These characters have endured in the pages of countless titles since, and over the past decade have transformed into icons of contemporary visual culture as part of the unstoppable box office phenomenon, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Visually astounding, keenly self-aware and intricately interlinked, the series of Marvel Studios films, beginning with 2008’s Iron Man, has confounded the conventional Super Hero mould — achieved, in part, by combining genres, from spy thriller to space opera, and delivering fresh, crowd-pleasing entertainment on the grandest scale.

But why examine popular culture in an art museum, and, in particular, this art museum? QAGOMA has long been interested in all aspects of contemporary visual culture, and our Australian Cinémathèque, which looks at film as an art medium, has provided us with the means to explore rich and diverse cinematic worlds unlike any other Australian art museum. By examining the sources of these contemporary stories — and the processes by which they reach the cinema screen — we expand our visual literacy and examine a global phenomenon within a wider critical dialogue.

Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe’ follows a selection of flawed heroes and their villainous foes from comic books to high-definition screens. We present the original visions of Kirby, Lee and Ditko and their contemporaries, and look at the creative teams who transform these stories using concept art, storyboarding, production design and computer-generated imagery. We also showcase the painstakingly crafted props and sumptuous costumes that give these unreal worlds a tangible presence.

Installation view of the majestic Asgardian throne room from the upcoming Marvel film Thor: Ragnarok 2017, ‘Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe’, GOMA 2017

This project has its precedents in our cinema surveys but its scope — the entire ground floor of GOMA, including our Cinémathèque — and the diverse materiality of its objects and images is unprecedented.

TICKETS: CINEMAEXHIBITION | UP LATE / BUY THE PUBLICATION

Marvel‘s enthusiasm and cooperation in presenting their characters in an art museum context has been outstanding. Developing this exhibition has been a heroic journey of a different kind for the Gallery, as we’ve grappled with presenting diverse material on characters loved by millions around the world — and the result is spectacular. ‘Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe’ is a thrilling exhibition of larger-than-life subjects and their epic journeys.

DELVE DEEPER INTO THE EXHIBITION AND THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE

‘Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe’ has been organised by the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) in collaboration with Marvel Entertainment. The exhibition has received vital support from the Queensland Government though Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ) and Arts Queensland. The Gallery acknowledges the support of UNIQLO – Principal Partner and exclusive sponsor of ‘Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe’ Up Late.

Chris Saines, CNZM is Director of the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

From the Director: James Turrell light commission to transform GOMA

 

As we continue to mark GOMA’s 10th year, I am delighted to unveil our plan to transform the Gallery of Modern Art’s  ‘white box’ into a monumentally-scaled solid light wall. Part of the architects’ design concept by Architectus + Davenport Campbell lead architects Kerry Clare, Lindsay Clare and James Jones was for GOMA to have an artist-illuminated ‘white box’ on the building’s eastern and southern glass facades.

While that vast 1200 square metre container for light was built – using some two hundred 4 x 15 metre panels of translucent Starphire glass, set out from the interior to act as a diffuser – it remained determinedly unlit.

THIS PROJECT AT QAGOMA WILL GIVE NEW LIFE TO COMPLETING THE EXPRESSION OF THE BUILDING’S PERSONALITY AT NIGHT.

JAMES TURRELL

To realise that far-sighted and luminous vision – we can now announce one of the world’s most renowned artists James Turrell (United States, b.1943) has been engaged to create a new work in his Architectural Light series.

I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO GIVE LIFE TO BUILDINGS… TO CLOAK THESE STRUCTURES IN A BEAUTIFUL RAIMENT OF LIGHT.

JAMES TURRELL

Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

Indicative image of James Turrell architectural light installation at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art

Raised a Quaker – a practical theology that seeks pathways to the light of God – Turrell’s father was an aeronautical engineer and a school administrator, and his mother a doctor who at one time worked in the Peace Corps. He obtained his pilot’s licence aged 16 and has spent much of his life flying fixed-wing planes and gliders; a passion that echoes within the limitless horizons and confounding perspectives of his installation work.

James Turrell b. 1943 Los Angeles, California / Lives and works outside Flagstaff, Arizona / © 2017 James Turrell / www.jamesturrell.com

Beginning with his earliest Projection Pieces, Turrell has spent 50 years considering our response to the materiality of light experienced in space and through time. He asks us to examine the nature of our looking and our seeing.

He works with man-made light– as in Rondo (Blue) 1969, in Houston – and with natural light, drawing attention to the light of the world through elegantly constructed apertures. His works occupy public spaces that are meticulously designed to cultivate a spirit of contemplation and private reflection – a moment of shared quietude in the company of others. They imperceptibly slow the passage of time.

James Turrell / Rondo (Blue) 1969 / The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston / © 2017 James Turrell / www.jamesturrell.com

For all his reliance on minimalist means, most notably in his Wedgeworks series, Turrell shapes projected light to create the unerring illusion of three-dimensional space, in a manner not unlike painting itself. In Caravaggio’s Calling of St Mathew 1599-1600 – as blindingly contemporary in its day – Christ’s entry into a tavern stands in symbolic parallel to the entry of light which transcends the mere elaboration of pictorial space. In both, light is dramatically arranged for patently common purposes: to enable us to bear witness to remarkable events; to apprehend space where none actually exists, and to create a space for revelation to occur.

Turrell’s Wedgeworks serve to demonstrate his long-standing interest in the “…thingness of light, its object-making, thing-making kind of ability.” The act of looking attentively at these works reveals light made manifest as an object in and of itself, rather than as an agent of material description.

Caravaggio / The Calling of St Matthew 1599-1600 / Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome
James Turrell / Wedgework 2000 / © 2017 James Turrell / www.jamesturrell.com

In his Ganzfeld series – a German word to describe the phenomenon of the total loss of depth perception, as in the experience of a ‘white out’ – Turrell invites the viewer to physically, cognitively and emotionally enter the light space of the work; to enter through the picture plane, as it were.

“Early on”, he recounts, “I was struck by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s description of flight spaces…, spaces within space, not defined physically by the architecture of form but by pressures within the atmosphere… [I was] interested in the idea of the journey into these spaces…”

The colour of light in a Ganzfeld is constantly, imperceptibly shifting through time and space, un-anchoring us from our ground-based view of the world. For Turrell, the avid pilot, it’s a “differentiation of vision [of a kind that] happens through weather and water vapour”.

James Turrell / Breathing Light 2013 / Los Angeles County Museum of Art / © Los Angeles County Museum of Art / Photography: Florian Holzherr
James Turrell / Breathing Light 2013 / Los Angeles County Museum of Art / © 2017 James Turrell / www.jamesturrell.com

While Ganzfeld works like Breathing Light 2013 set up the dual conditions of a sublimely social as well as a dream-like experience, Turrell’s trenchantly utopian Perceptual Cells can only be experienced one viewer at a time. Lying face-up on a sliding support held in a completely enclosed orb-like space for five or so minutes, the solitary viewer’s every sensory receptor is assailed by what I can only describe as ‘light you can feel’. Perhaps it comes closest to fulfilling Turrell’s long-held desire to “…make a light that looks like the light you see in your dreams.”

By contrast, it’s an earth-bound light that is held via the cone of this long extinct volcano – Roden Crater – on the edge of Arizona’s Painted Desert north of Flagstaff, which Turrell found after a vast aerial search in 1974. Roden Crater Project (1979 –) is a monumental land-based work of art that will, when complete, form a naked-eye observatory into which he has very precisely inserted access passageways and subterranean viewing chambers.

Roden Crater, Painted Desert, Arizona / © 2017 James Turrell / www.jamesturrell.com

When seen from the bottom of the crater, its nearly circular dish-shaped bowl – made more so by colossal levelling and grading works – accepts and amplifies the optical and visual effects of celestial vaulting. Multi-level viewing portals are strictly oriented toward events observed in the sky, enabling a direct and profound experience of the sun, moon, and stars, and with it an apprehension of our place within the cosmos.

Crater Bowl, Roden Crater, Arizona / © 2017 James Turrell / www.jamesturrell.com
Crater’s Eye, Roden Crater, Arizona / © 2017 James Turrell / www.jamesturrell.com

One tunnel, which impels your eye toward a distant viewing chamber, is designed to frame the moon at a point of astronomically precise alignment. By isolating and occluding light from events not being looked at, Turrell intensifies and profoundly expands our understanding of solar and lunar light.

Alpha (East Tunnel), Looking toward Sun/Moon Chamber, Roden Crater, Arizona / © 2017 James Turrell / www.jamesturrell.com

In 2013, James Turrell was granted an unparalleled honour for an American artist; concurrent exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum in New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Among several major new works was Aten Reign 2013, which was formed out of the admixture of LED fittings and the natural light that falls through an oculus, a circular opening at the top of Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiral rotunda at the Guggenheim.

It was a phenomenal success, a brilliant reimagining of one of the city’s most iconic buildings, drawing in from the edges of the ramp to its interior volume and, for Turrell, producing “…an architecture of space created with light.”

James Turrell, Aten Reign 2013 / Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York / Rendering: Andreas Tjeldflaat, 2012 / © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

It was at this moment the potential for GOMA to make its own artist-illuminated statement, within an iconic Brisbane building, became apparent, and Turrell was approached to create one of his Architectural Light works – which enliven major buildings around the globe.

I would like to light the building up from the inside… Light that comes from inside enlivens and gives life to a building.

James Turrell

Once example of the series is FIFA Headquarters in Zurich, set in a vast wooded parkland and approached by the viewer across a bustling plaza. This project – like so much of the work for which Turrell is best known – vividly employs the low- energy-demand but astonishingly high chromatic intensity and resonance of contemporary LED fittings. This isn’t the kind of light conventionally projected through the night, only to strike then scatter off a solid built surface. It is a solid light, gathered within the architecture itself, which breathes out into the night.

James Turrell / Blueburn 2012 / FIFA Headquarters, Zurich / © 2017 James Turrell / www.jamesturrell.com

The Queensland Government is joining with the Gallery’s Foundation to complete the original design intention for the building. Without the Queensland Government’s extraordinary support, a truly outstanding lead donation from Paul and Susan Taylor, and a generous contribution from the Neilson Foundation, an enterprise on this scale would have been impossible.

The 2017 QAGOMA Foundation Appeal is dedicated to bringing a long-dormant vision for the GOMA building to life some ten years after its opening. For the first time, the annual Appeal supports a truly public artwork that will be illuminated nightly, one in which the city and community can equally share.

I believe that buildings have a consciousness, and as long as they are inhabited and used, you feel that.

James Turrell

James Turrell / © 2017 James Turrell / www.jamesturrell.com

Chris Saines, CNZM is Director of the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

Arthur Boyd’s Sleeping bride a major gift to QAGOMA

 

A recent major gift to the Collection is destined to join the ranks of the most celebrated and iconic works in the QAGOMA Collection: a painting by Arthur Boyd, which I had the great pleasure of unveiling at the recent QAGOMA Foundation Annual Dinner.

From the celebrated allegorical series of paintings ‘Love, Marriage and Death of a Half-Caste’ – often known as the ‘Brides’ – Sleeping bride 1957-58 is one of Arthur Boyd’s defining contributions to Australian art. The Victorian-born artist is, together with his contemporaries Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker and Joy Hester, among the towering figures of the Australian Modernist movement.

Arthur Boyd, Australia 1920-99 / Sleeping bride 1957-58 / Oil and tempera on composition board / Gift of Paul Taylor in memory of his parents Eric and Marion Taylor through the QAGOMA Foundation 2016. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Arthur Boyd’s work reproduced with the permission of Bundanon Trust

We look forward to exhibiting this work along with other key Boyd works in the Collection such as the 1948 Berwick landscape and Gafney’s Creek, and paintings by other Australian modernists including Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, Albert Tucker and William Dobell.

One of the most significant individual works of Australian art ever gifted to the Collection, Sleeping bride comes from Paul Taylor in memory of his parents, Eric and Marion Taylor. The Taylors were passionately committed to family, education, community and service. For Paul and his wife Sue, the gift made in their memory makes a compelling contribution to the QAGOMA Collection.

Alongside Nolan’s ‘Kelly’ paintings and Tucker’s ‘Images of Modern Evil’, both from the ‘40s, Boyd’s ‘Brides’ persist to this day as one of Australia’s most intriguing and immediately iconic series.

Born into a family of artists, potters and sculptors in 1920, Arthur Boyd – who died in 1999 – is arguably the most pictorially and creatively inventive of twentieth century Australian painters.

Early in his career he was drawn to a mutable and occasionally explosive form of expressionist figuration – most were Melbourne-centric; a playing out of the psychic end-dramas of a world consumed by war. At the outset of a career characterised by unending stylistic oscillation, he then found a kind of rhythmic and pictorial reset in the bucolic hills around his Berwick home. By then, Boyd had located what would be a lasting affinity with European art history and with its Christian symbolism and mythology.

Indeed, much of the work made approaching the late 50s, the moment of the ‘Brides’ series, was at the outset nourished by the forcefully psychological writing of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Franz Kafka, and then seemed to draw directly off the painterly grid of Oskar Kokoschka and Pablo Picasso. What followed was a foray into vast and teeming biblical subjects, which brought to the local landscape the unlikely influence of Bosch, the occasional nod to Brueghel, and the deeply human drama of Masaccio.

Throughout the ‘50s, Boyd returned to more naturalistic, sometimes idyllic paintings of the archetypal Australian bush; Gippsland scrub parched for water but drenched in light; straw-coloured paddocks festooned with hayricks and farm equipment, the sky ringing with a raucous chorus of crows.

This is what preceded a decisive trip that Boyd was to take to central Australia in 1953. He visited the artist Rex Battarbee, who had such a formative influence on Albert Namatjira, travelled on the Ghan from Port Augusta to Alice Springs, then finally out to the former mining settlement of Arltunga, where he camped and drew incessantly.

Here, for the first time, Boyd encountered Indigenous Australians in shanty towns along dry riverbeds, living under corrugated iron in squalor and abject isolation from the nearby white population.

This had a stunning and lasting effect. According to Ursula Hoff, the first to write comprehensively on his work, ‘the blacks he saw were neither ‘noble’ nor ‘comic’ but tragically suspended between two worlds’.

Hoff said the bride motif ‘brought back a memory of an open truck at Alice Springs which carried a number of Aboriginal women to church, their white bridal finery contrasting with a method of transport more fitting for cattle.

Boyd’s leading theme, she says, is frustration.

The watershed series which arose from this encounter, and to which Sleeping bride belongs, didn’t fully crystalize in Boyd’s imagination until a few years later, between 1957–58, when he painted 16 ‘Bride’ series pictures, which were first shown under the title ‘Allegorical Paintings’ at Australian Galleries in Melbourne, then in Adelaide and Sydney. The series eventually consumed him and he went on to create more than 40 major paintings, this one included, between these years and up to 1960, the last executed in London.

Although there is no coherent narrative enjoining the series, unlike Nolan’s ‘Kelly’ – different paintings register very different levels of cultural agency, tension and even violence – giving the ‘Brides’ a ballad-like cadence. The crux of the story is the doomed affair between a man of mixed-race and his so-called ‘Half-Caste’ bride, who in some paintings also appears in reflection or as an ethereal doppelganger. This marked a turning point for Boyd and for the representation of Indigenous Australians by artists of European descent.

The ‘Brides’ were painted in the later years of the federal government’s assimilation policy and the stolen generations, which saw children of mixed-race removed from their homes. Indigenous scholar Marcia Langton, has observed that Boyd’s ‘artistic practice was an expression of his encounter with the Aboriginal world in the early 1950s, and its assault on his psyche’. Indeed, the history of that representation is embedded in these elusively episodic, psychological, and sometimes brutal paintings.

In the rhythm of the series, the Sleeping bride marks a comparatively tender interval, an exhalation of breath, a rare vision of the bride alone. The dark, blue-tinged landscape – likely set by Boyd in the Great Dividing Range – puts us in an ambiguous realm of half-light. Perhaps it’s an early morning light not yet fully awakened, like the bride, from a suspended dream state. It’s this sense of the bride ‘not quiet’ floating over the ground that bears her weight that evokes the paintings of Marc Chagall, but there is none of Chagall’s fantastic levitation and none of his ecstatic states here.

This is, indisputably, 1950s Australia.

The pictorial anatomy of the Sleeping bride does, however, summon up several of the most insistent European art influences on Boyd. They are seen in the head of the bride, recalling Picasso’s Boisgeloup figures, and any number of his versions of a sleeping women; and they are even found in the scumbled treatment of the translucent white dress, which might have its painterly descent in Boyd’s admiration for Tintoretto’s and Rembrandt’s use of tempera and oils.

There is also the symbolic anatomy of this painting, a very particular ‘Boydian’ iconography, which includes a luminous green scarab beetle, an Egyptian symbol which refers to the rebirth of the sun each day; a ‘ram-ox’, a hybrid symbol – part ox, part ram – entirely invented by the artist to suggest strength and fertility; and of course the crow, the harbinger of doom or death. Finally, there is the posy of flowers. Do they denote an imminent or recent wedding, or foretell a funeral – and might not the blue ones be anemones, ancient Christian symbols of sorrow and death?

Taken together, Boyd is registering a remarkably complex state of mind here, one in which his bride finds herself utterly abandoned to sleep – a state that might equally signify her being seized variously with fear, sadness, lust, or the hope of renewal.

The ‘Bride’ series, according to Robert Hughes, and more recently Kendrah Morgan, was also informed by his then tumultuous personal life. Hughes called the Brides ‘the search of a man for love’, and Morgan recounts the story of Boyd’s lover at the time, the artist Jean Langley, whose diaries recount her giving him a bunch of flowers to take to his wife Yvonne, then languishing in hospital with a nervous breakdown.

Whether the ‘Brides’ series was conceived or evolved as an allegory of the alienated outsider, as a pointed social and political critique, or whether it also embodies the after-effects of the immense turmoil in Boyd’s personal life at the time, it remains a complex, contested and rightly celebrated body of work in Australian art history. It is, likely, all of these things.

It seems apt then, in this context, that Sleeping bride was at first a gift to Boyd’s sister Mary and to his brother-in-law John Perceval, whose own work will eventually hang nearby.

For the Gallery’s Collection, Sleeping bride is an exemplary painting from a highly significant moment in Australian art history; one which will dramatically expand the dialogue we can create between our holdings of Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, Albert Tucker and William Dobell, together with Boyd himself.

This major, mid-century modernist painting from Arthur Boyd’s most prominent series will exert a uniquely unmatched impact on our Collection. It is, then, something of a bravura gift, as well – and I’m delighted that you could join us to be the first to see it and to celebrate it tonight.

As influential critic and curator Bryan Robertson, who first showed the ‘Brides’ at Zwemmer Gallery in London, said: “These paintings do not require any explanation. They speak with their own voice of something which the artist feels very passionately. They are tough pictures, filled with an almost lurid… intensity of movement, stillness and colour.”

The Sleeping bride – and I say this entirely without irony, in the shadow cast by Robertson’s remarks – is just that: a deeply felt, a deeply human painting

DELVE DEEPER INTO THE australian collection

Chris Saines, CNZM is Director of the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). This is an edited version of an address given at the 2016 QAGOMA Foundation Annual Dinner.
Feature image: Arthur Boyd’s Sleeping bride 1957-58 (detail)

From the Director: Spring update

 

The Gallery has seen some intense activity since APT8 closed: we’ve opened no less than four important exhibitions in as many weeks over May and June.

The vibrant palette of the late Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori’s Dulka Warngiid – Land of All exhibition, which has filled the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) with the spirit of north Queensland’s gulf country, tours to Melbourne in September. At the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) we welcomed the incomparable Cindy Sherman for the opening of an exhibition dedicated to her post-2000 digital work, which received extensive national media coverage in advance of the artist’s retrospective at the new Broad Museum in Los Angeles. The exhibition will tour to City Gallery Wellington in November.

For the opening of Time of others, we welcomed a delegation of ten staff from the Singapore Art Museum, one of the institutions contributing to this pan-Asian touring exhibition. We had some productive conversations with SAM’s multidisciplinary contingent over the course of their week-long visit about possible future collaborative projects between Queensland and Singapore.

The GOMA Turns 10 program began in June, with the opening of A World View: The Tim Fairfax Gift, and over the next few months, all of GOMA will be transformed by new exhibitions and installations. These will include visitor favourites like Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s installation of live finches, from here to ear (v.13) 2010, as well as several spectacular new commissions.

21st Century: Art in the First Decade installation process

21st Century: Art in the First Decade installation view

21st Century: Art in the First Decade installation view
Celeste Boursier-Mougenot, France b.1961 / from here to ear (v.13) (details) 2010 / Five octagonal structures (each made in maple and plywood), harpsichord strings piano tuning pins, audio system (contact microphones, amplifiers, guitar processors and speakers), coat hangers, feeding trays and bowls, seeds, water, nests, sand and grass / Purchased 2011. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist / Photograph: Natasha Harth, QAGOMA

Also in anticipation of GOMA’s birthday, we were pleased to announce in July that artist Judy Watson was chosen from a field of strong entries to undertake the Queensland Indigenous Artist Public Art Commission. Judy’s bronze sculpture, inspired by the traditional woven fishing nets of south-east Queensland’s Aboriginal communities, will bring an evocative local presence to GOMA’s entrance when it is unveiled in December.

Spring focuses on a substantial exhibition opening at QAG, No.1 Neighbour: Art in Papua New Guinea 1966–2016 which looks at 50 years of art by PNG artists. You can follow the installation process on Flickr.

No.1 Neighbour Queensland Art Gallery installation process
No.1 Neighbour: Art in Papua New Guinea 1966–2016 being installed at QAG

We also recently announced that the QAGOMA Foundation’s 2016 Appeal had successfully raised the funds to purchase Michael Zavros’s Bad dad 2013. This superb addition to the contemporary Australian collection was painted by an artist born and based in Queensland, but who has garnered national and global attention in recent years.

Meanwhile, Moving Pictures the Salon-style hang of highlights from the Australian art Collection has attracted great interest from our visitors. This concentration of Australian art can be viewed at QAG from two levels and explored on an interactive touchscreen in the space.

The next few weeks are your last chance to see the Cindy Sherman exhibition, including after hours for a brilliant Up Late program of music, talks and style over four Fridays in September. A host of other exhibitions will be closing or evolving before GOMA Turns 10 — I invite you to make the most of these and mark your calendars for GOMA’s birthday in December!

From the Director: Judy Watson to create public artwork for GOMA entry

 
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Artist Judy Watson
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(L-R) Chris Saines, Director QAGOMA; The Hon. Leeanne Enoch MP, Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business; artist Judy Watson; Avril Quaill, Manager of Partnerships, Arts Queensland; Michael Aird, Research Fellow, School of Social Science, University of Queensland; and Bruce McLean, Curator, Indigenous Australian Art, QAGOMA

This morning, it was my pleasure to be joined at the Galley of Modern Art (GOMA) by Leeanne Enoch, Queensland’s Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business, for the announcement that Queensland artist Judy Watson has been selected to realise a major public artwork at the building’s entrance.

The Queensland Indigenous Artist Public Art Commission invited expressions for interest from acclaimed artists to propose a public artwork for realisation as part of this year’s GOMA Turns 10 celebrations.

The artwork will make a significant addition to the memorable public works already situated in Brisbane’s Cultural Precinct, and be a potent reminder of the ongoing role that Queensland’s Indigenous artists play in telling their own stories and in the greater cultural life of the state and  country.

The Commission responded directly to community sentiment for more visible representation of Indigenous artists in the Precinct, and addressed the Gallery’s commitment to promoting greater community awareness of Indigenous histories and people.

Ms Watson’s proposal tow row was selected by the panel, on which I was joined by Avril Quaill, Queensland Art Gallery Board member and Manager of Partnerships at Arts Queensland; architect Kevin O’Brien; Michael Aird, Research Fellow, School of Social Science, University of Queensland; and Bruce McLean, Curator, Indigenous Australian Art, QAGOMA.

blog-JUDY WATSON_tow row

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Artist concepts of tow row

The panel unanimously selected Brisbane artist Judy Watson’s proposal for a bronze sculpture inspired by the traditional woven fishing nets of south-east Queensland’s Aboriginal communities.

The panel commented:

Judy Watson’s work will make a powerful and evocative new addition to the public art of the Cultural Precinct. Based on an everyday object that was an integral tool in the lives of people who fished the banks of Brisbane River and Maiwar Green, it references the land on which it will sit, the traditional owners of the site and the wider region.

Drawing from archival material in the Queensland Museum and State Library of Queensland, the artist has researched and thought deeply about the site to present a vision which immediately speaks to local saltwater waterways and estuaries. It combines the fibre arts that were traditionally a woman’s responsibility, with fishing, typically associated with men. Though the object – known as a ‘tow row’ – is specific to the region, weaving as a technique is also shared by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout Queensland.

Judy’s proposal extends the mark-making of her painting, printmaking and installation practice by inviting interplay between the open weave of her sculptural form and the moving shadows it will cast across the surrounding GOMA forecourt during the day.

We are delighted that Judy will reinscribe this humble everyday object back into the landscape where it has been used, renewing an inherently traditional and local story and bringing it into our contemporary memory.

In her proposal, the artist wrote:

This use of fibre and water as the conduit for catching fish evokes ideas of sustenance, family, culture, survival. The fragility of the object cloaks its hidden strength, a metaphor for the resilience of Aboriginal people who have held onto the importance of land, culture and family through adversity and deprivation. It will be a lasting memory of the indelible Aboriginal presence that is a part of this shared space.

The Gallery is proud to be advocating for the ongoing role Indigenous people play in the narrative of place, community and culture in contemporary Australia, and this artwork is one step toward visibly honouring that artistic practice, now and into the future.

From the Director: A World View – now open at GOMA

 
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Henrique Oliveira, Brazil b.1973 / Xilonoma Chamusquius 2 2012 / Burnt plywood and pigments / Purchased 2012 with funds from Tim Fairfax, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist
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‘A World View’, GOMA

It has been my distinct pleasure, as Director of this Gallery, to form a close working relationship with Tim Fairfax. It’s a delight to work with a benefactor so receptive to new ideas, but whose spirit of generosity is so well grounded. Never perturbed by the marvellous diversity of works we put forward, he leaves things to us: “it’s your collection to build”; “you’re the experts”. It’s clear, though, that Tim takes unvarnished joy in the new world of international art his giving creates for the Gallery and for its visitors. And this, I think, is where he finds his greatest joy – in the equally unvarnished responses of ordinary people, particularly of children, to the experience and the wonder of contemporary art.

A World View - the Tim Fairfax AC Gift Gallery of Modern Art official opening
[l to r] Director QAGOMA, Chris Saines CNZM; Chair, Queensland Art Gallery Board of Trustees, Professor Sue Street AO ; QAGOMA Foundation Patron, His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey, AC , Governor of Queensland; and QAGOMA Foundation President, Tim Fairfax, AC

A World View: The Tim Fairfax Gift | Until 17 April 2017 | Free

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Installation view of Michael Sailstorfer’s Wolken (Clouds) 2010. Purchased 2011 with funds from Tim Fairfax, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation. Collection: Queensland Art Gallery. © The artist

Tim Fairfax has allowed QAGOMA to play large in a way that has spectacularly expanded our ability to commission and to collect. Such altruism and freedom to act in the interests of art and its audience is rare, and we are all the more deeply grateful to him for that.

These acquisitions on display in ‘A World View: The Tim Fairfax Gift’ have ‘movement’ as their connector. Movement found in the refracted mirrors of Nasseri’s Epistrophy; the mechanical whoosh of Favaretto’s Gummo; or the die-hard fans not quite ‘thrilling’ us in Breitz’s King (a portrait of Michael Jackson).

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Timo Nasseri, Germany b.1972 / Epistrophy VI 2012 / Polished stainless steel / Purchased 2012 with funds from Tim Fairfax, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist
Sublime: Contemporary works from the CollectionInstallation view
Lara Favaretto, Italy b.1973 / Gummo IV 2012 / Iron, car wash brushes and electrical motors / Purchased 2012 with funds from Tim Fairfax, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist
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Candice Breitz, South Africa b.1972 / King (a portrait of Michael Jackson) 2005 / 16-channel video installation: 42:20 minutes, colour, sound / Purchased 2008 with funds from Tim Fairfax, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

The Tim Fairfax Gift includes an astonishing 75 works from every corner of the globe – works by turns intimate, spectacular and sublime. A second chapter – opening in December, when GOMA turns 10 – will showcase the scale of both this gift and of the GOMA building itself. It marks the return of Tomas Saraceno’s fabulous Biospheres and an exciting new large-scale light commission from Anthony McCall, and it will further reveal the extent to which we continue to be enriched by the transformative nature and the good grace of Tim Fairfax’s giving.

HarvestInstallation viewTomás Saraceno Biospheres
Tomás Saraceno, Argentina b.1973 / Biosphere 02 2009 / PVC, rope, nylon monofilament, acrylic, plants (Tillandsia), air pressure regulator system, hydration system / Purchased 2014 with funds from Tim Fairfax, AC, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist