Transitions Now: Contemporary Aboriginal Forms & Images


In ‘Transitions Now: Contemporary Aboriginal Forms and Images’ at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), innovative textured and sculpted works illustrate Aboriginal Australian artists’ ongoing commitment to declaring their identity and vital presence in contemporary society. In dynamic juxtapositions, individual and group artistic statements predominate over strictly held categories, demonstrating the immeasurable contribution Aboriginal artists continue to make to Australia’s visual arts culture.

Though often still inspired and nourished by ancient traditions, today’s responses may be entirely contemporary — expressed in fresh choices of narratives, materials and techniques utilising found and discarded materials or realised in new media.

‘Transitions Now’ displays work by artists from across the country, from the Tiwi Islands in the north to central Australia and the eastern states. Regardless of the materials they choose to work with, all the artists draw on inherited knowledge and respect for their continuing living culture.

Shirley Macnamara ‘Cu’

Shirley Macnamara, artist, Indjalandji/Alyawarr, Australia b.1949 / Nathaniel Macnamara, assistant, Indjalandji/Alyawarr, Australia b.2004 / Cu 2016 / Hand-coiled copper wire and raw copper / 22 x 25 x 25cm / Purchased 2017 with funds from Gina Fairfax through the Queensland Art Gallery I Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane / © Shirley Macnamara

Margaret Rarru ‘Mindirr’

Margaret Rarru, Liyagawumirr people, Australia b.1940 / Mindirr 2018 / Pandanus with natural dyes / Purchased 2011 with funds from Thomas Bradley through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © The artists

Jackie Kurltjunyintja Giles ‘Valiant’

Jackie Kurltjunyintja Giles, Australia 1937–2010 / Valiant 2007 / Synthetic polymer paint on metal / 152 x 142 x 10cm / Purchased 2008. The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Jackie Kurltjunyintja Giles.

‘Transitions Now: Contemporary Aboriginal Forms and Images from the Collection’ (6 August 2022 – 18 June 2023) and ‘Transitions: Historic and Contemporary Barks from the Collection 1948–2021’ (20 August 2022 – 10 April 2023) are dovetailing chapters of an exhibition that offers a unique experience of innovative contemporary Aboriginal art alongside eight decades of Australian Aboriginal bark painting.

Transitions: Historic and Contemporary Barks from the Collection 1948–2021
Works painted in crushed earth pigments on sheets of eucalyptus bark and on wooden sculptures depict poetic creation narratives of artists across Australia’s northern coastline, from the Kimberley in Western Australia to far eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Groupings reflect artists’ clan and Country affiliations, mapping the northern Australian landscape and highlighting the extraordinary cultural and linguistic diversity of its peoples. Although the same natural materials are still in use, bark painting has undergone a radical transformation as artists introduce new ways of expression, materials and techniques.

Acknowledgment of Country
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on 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 First Australians make to the art and culture of this country.

It is customary in many Indigenous communities not to mention the name or reproduce photographs of the deceased. All such mentions and photographs are with permission, however, care and discretion should be exercised.

Reconciliation Action Plan
QAGOMA has launched its inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to guide its contributions to reconciliation. View the 2022–24 RAP.

Featured image
Jonathan Jones, Kamilaroi/Wiradjuri people, Australia b.1978 / lumination fall wall weave 2006 / Electrical cable, light fittings, bulbs on painted medium density fibreboard / 363 x 720 x 25cm (installed) / Acc. 2006.070 / The Xstrata Coal Emerging Indigenous Art Award 2006 (winning entry). Purchased 2006 with funds from Xstrata Coal through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Jonathan Jones