Indigenous Australian art tours Queensland


Experience more than 60 contemporary and historical works from the Gallery’s Indigenous Australian Art collection when the exhibition ‘I, Object’ tours to six Queensland venues — Rockhampton, Caboolture, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Cairns, and Mackay.

‘I, Object’ features contemporary painting, sculpture, and installation by leading Queensland artists Vernon Ah Kee (neither pride nor courage 2006 illustrated), Tony Albert, Michael Boiyool Anning, Fiona Foley, Danie Mellor, Christian Thompson, Warraba Weatherall and others alongside 20 historical shields, boomerangs and clubs.

‘I, Object’ considers the many complex relationships Indigenous Australian artists continue to have with objects — from the histories informing their creation to the social and cultural consequences of their collection. The exhibition demonstrates the great pride and inspiration of inherited cultural practices and historical Indigenous objects, and reveals the difficulties posed by their collection and estrangement.

Vernon Ah Kee ‘neither pride nor courage’ 2006

Vernon Ah Kee, Kuku Yalanji/Waanyi/Yidinyji/Guugu Yimithirr people, Australia b.1967 / neither pride nor courage 2006 / Charcoal, crayon and synthetic polymer paint on canvas / Triptych: 174 x 240cm (each panel) / The James C. Sourris AM Collection. Gift of James C. Sourris through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2007. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Vernon Ah Kee

A group of contemporary shields in the exhibition by artists Michael Boiyool Anning (illustrated) and Danie Mellor speak back to traditional shield-making practices and the mark-making traditions they have been preserved. In conversation with the historical shields on display, these contemporary works also comment on the impact of Western aesthetics and colonial policies on Indigenous people and society.

Michael Boiyool Anning ‘Rainforest shield (scorpion design) and sword’ 2000-01

Michael Boiyool Anning, Yidinyji people, Australia b.1955 / Rainforest shield (scorpion design) and sword 2000-01 / Shield: natural pigments on softwood (Alstonia scholaris or Argyrodendron perlatum); sword: natural pigments on hardwood (Xanthostemon whitei), beeswax and resin with bush string / Shield: 104 x 41 x 6cm (irreg.); sword: 130 x 15 x 3.5cm / Purchased 2001. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Michael Boiyool Anning

‘I, Object’ also considers the Indigenous body-as-object and critiques the continued consumption of Indigenous images and identities that range from early genealogical and scientific studies to the demeaning, romanticised images of Aboriginal people and cultures. Works reflecting these ideas include Tony Albert’s large-scale multi-media installation whiteWASH 2018 (illustrated) that comprises a collection of mid-century Aboriginalia ashtrays, and Vernon Ah Kee’s compelling triptych Neither pride nor courage 2006, large, hand-drawn portraits of male members of the artist’s family that reflect the practices of anthropologist Norman B Tindale (1900–93), who recorded vast amounts of genealogical information about Indigenous communities from all over Australia in the 1920’s and 30’s.

Tony Albert ‘whiteWASH’ 2018

Tony Albert, Girramay/Yidinyji/Kuku Yalanji peoples, Australia b.1981 / whiteWASH 2018 / Vintage ashtrays on vinyl lettering / 208.5 x 255cm (installed) / Purchased 2018. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Tony Albert

Other highlights in the exhibition include carved sculptures by Wik-Kugu artists Craig Koomeeta and Alair Pambegan, and Fiona Foley’s large-scale, text-based sculpture DISPERSED 2008 (illustrated), a monument to the Aboriginal people who were driven off their land, and many of whom were killed, on the Queensland colonial frontier in the nineteenth century.

Alair Pambegan ‘Kalben (A Sacred Site in the Flying-Fox Story)’ 2016-17

Alair Pambegan, Australia b.1966 / Kalben (A Sacred Site in the Flying-Fox Story) 2016-17 / Carved wood with synthetic polymer paint and natural pigments, raffia / 107 pieces ranging from 14 to 41cm in length (excluding raffia) / Acc. 2017.367.001-107 / Purchased 2017. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Alair Pambegan

Fiona Foley ‘DISPERSED’ 2008

Fiona Foley, Badtjala people, Wondunna clan, K’gari (Fraser Island), Australia b.1964 / DISPERSED 2008 / Charred laminated wood, cast aluminium, .303 inch calibre bullets / Nine parts: 51 x 43 x 26cm (each, approx.); 51 x 500 x 26cm (installed) / Purchased 2013. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Fiona Foley

Rockhampton Museum of Art / 5 August – 1 October 2023
Caboolture Regional Art Gallery / 1 November 2023 – 24 February 2024
Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery / 6 April – 21 July 2024
Ipswich Art Gallery / 17 August – 13 October 2024
NorthSite Contemporary Arts (Cairns) / 26 October – 24 December 2024
Artspace Mackay / 18 January – 30 March 2025

Featured image: Naomi Hobson, Kaantju/Umpila peoples, Australia b.1978 / A Warrior without a Weapon (series) 2018 / Digital photographic print on paper ed. 1/6 (+ 2 A.P.) / Ten sheets, various sizes / Purchased 2019 with funds from the Future Collective through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Naomi Hobson

Acknowledgment of Country
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land upon which the Gallery stands in Brisbane. We pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders past and present and, in the spirit of reconciliation, acknowledge the immense creative contribution Indigenous people make to the art and culture of this country. It is customary in many Indigenous communities not to mention the name of the deceased. All such mentions and photographs on the QAGOMA Blog are with permission, however, care and discretion should be exercised.