Artist Statement by Eugenia Lim:
"My work draws from my own cultural heritage – it comes from a specific place to explore wider questions and tensions that all humans face when they brush up against other humans. As a second-generation Australian, my parents migrated here from Singapore during the White Australia Policy (thanks to the Columbo Plan, a Commonwealth scholarship program). I grew up between two cultures; this feeling of in-betweenness has become something that fuels my work – in pluralism, uncertainty and in confounding expectations there is the possibility for cultural shifts and empathy. Because of my appearance, I will be forever-bound to China – a ‘motherland’ I only visited for the first time last year. Being judged on what is skin-deep or surface used to irritate me, but through performance, I’ve come to thrive on using my skin as a screen or mask – a surface that both thwarts easy definition and reveals the complexity of history, culture and identity. Nationalism and stereotypes offer me a powerful existing language to break apart and hopefully to explode. Ultimately, my aim is to insert and claim space and territory for marginal identities within the mainstream, using my own experience and perspective as a feminist Asian-Australian. I hope in some way, that my work will ask my audience to encounter other people – no matter how ‘foreign’ in terms of gender, sexuality, race, religion or politics – as fellow human beings and citizens of the world."
Darebin Art Collection
Artist Statement by Eugenia Lim:
For we are young and free borrows from the second line of the Australian anthem. The phrase speaks to a national perception of a shared identity and politic. As a nation-state, we are relatively young, and politically we see ourselves as having all the freedoms and self-determination associated with a liberal democracy. The work is a manually embroidered depiction of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan. I have deliberately obscured his eyes and changed the colour of the uniform to keep his identity anonymous, and his portrayal symbolic. The work is not about the specific identity of any one soldier, but about what that soldier represents, and how those collective actions relate to the national identity. What does our liberty mean, when our surrogates are explicitly involved in illiberal, destructive actions in other places? What does it do to the agents, and what does it do to those we inflict our agents on? For many in Australia our military is a symbol of authority and security, but only being militarily engaged in invasive wars oversea, anyone who comes across our soldiers in action would only see them as an existential threat.
Abdul Abdullah is an artist from Perth, currently based in Sydney, who works across painting, photography, video, installation and performance. As a self described ‘outsider amongst outsiders’, his practice is primarily concerned with the experience of the ‘other’ in society. Abdullah’s projects have engaged with different marginalized minority groups and he is particularly interested in the experience of young Muslims in the contemporary multicultural Australian context, as well as connecting with creative communities throughout the Asia Pacific. Through these processes and explorations Abdullah extrapolates this outlook to an examination of universal aspects of human nature.
His works are included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, The Art Gallery of Western Australia, The Gallery of Modern Art, Artbank, the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, The Islamic Museum of Australia and The Bendigo Art Gallery. In 2015 Abdul exhibited at Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and at the Asia Pacific Triennial at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, in 2016 he exhibited at the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art and in 2017 he showed at PATAKA Art Museum in New Zealand and with Yavuz Gallery at Art Basel Hong Kong and the Asia Now Art Fair in Paris. Most recently Abdul exhibited at MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum in Chiangmai, The National Gallery of Australia as part of Infinite Conversations, and was shortlisted along with his brother Abdul-Rahman Abdullah to represent Australia in the 2019 Venice Biennale.
'Whirl' centers on spirituality as a force that exists both in its own right and as something that can be (mechanically) produced - a simulacral spirituality, if you wish. The artist is positioned in between the undulating veil and the hairdryer that represents her will, constantly moving and being moved.
This work also borrows from the hyper-real aesthetics of shampoo commercials that often use the language of liberation to sell their products. As a personal anecdote, the encouragement I received immediately after unveiling led me to believe that removing the veil should be a shampoo commercial type experience, which it was not. Whirl explores that memory while throwing into question the inherent assumptions between unveiled/liberated/beautiful and veiled/oppressed/abject.
In ‘Wealth for Toil #2’, Raquel Ormella continues her ongoing exploration of Australian identity and our relationship to winning and money. It is one in a series of banners which explores gold as both a precious metal and as a metaphor. The artwork’s title references the Australian National Anthem. Raquel critiques some of the less desirable aspects of Australian patriotism – specifically the national public outcry when the Australian swimming team did not come back with gold at the 2012 London Olympics, despite millions of dollars being poured into the Australian Institute of Sport. This moment typified what Raquel sees as a fault in contemporary Australian society that chooses to celebrate “winners only” and valourise individuals rather than build a society that seeks to invest in the common wealth and social capital.
This work was shown as part of the exhibition 'Keepsake' at Bundoora Homestead Art Centre in 2017.
'Keepsake', an exhibition documenting moments in time—traces captured between night and day, work and home, travelling from one place to another. The quiet moments when we consciously pause and ruminate before ‘busy’ takes over.
As a quiet response to our hectic lives, the exhibition explored the personal, quiet moments found in our urban environments, striving to capture small moments of sublime in the everyday. In a unique combination of painting and jewellery practices, 'Keepsake' showcased intimate oil paintings on copper by Kirrily Hammond and contemporary jewellery and photography by Sim Luttin.
Aunty Marlene Gilson is a proud Wadawaurrung traditional owner and Elder. Her multi-figure paintings work to overturn colonial narratives by re-contextualising the representation of historical events. Learning Wathaurung history from her grandmother, Marlene began painting in 2008 as a form of therapy, while recovering from an illness. She has received considerable accolades and most recently exhibited a series of works in the Sydney Biennale (2018).
The artist’s meticulously rendered works display a narrative richness and theatrical quality akin to the traditional genre of history painting. Marlene has developed an extensive body of work which relates to her ancestral lands which covers Ballarat, Werribee, Geelong, Skipton and the Otway Ranges in Victoria.
Marlene was invited to create a new work for the Darebin Art Collection that either related to the City of Darebin or her traditional lands. She chose the subject of Bundoora Homestead for this new commission and has included First Nations people alongside colonial settlers and members of the Smith Family enabling an opportunity to reflect on the incredible history of Bundoora Homestead and its surrounds. This painting brings Aboriginal people and Colonialists into the one space living harmoniously and in doing so reminds us that reconciliation may be a possibility.
"We visited Bundoora Homestead and farm, what an amazing place. In my research I found that Mr Smith built a stone hut for the Aboriginal people to stay when they visited. They bred cattle and horses, Wallace being the greatest sire in Australia and is buried on the property. They had three gardeners and four children, which I have painted in the garden with Mr and Mrs Smith seated watching the children play.
Thank you for allowing me to look into the history of John and Helen Smith. I hope I have captured their life and amazing Homestead and surrounds. 31.8.18"
HOLDING ON, 2015 is a performance piece which captures a struggle between the body of the artist and the body of the ocean as the tide gradually comes in. The artist lies on a concrete slab which stretches out into the ocean; a man-made island. Underestimating the ferocity and strength of the incoming waves, she struggles to maintain her grasp on the island. As the light fades into darkness, it is unknown whether she will be able to hold on or be swept away.
This video was filmed on Tuvalu, in the South Pacific. It is one of the most endangered nations currently facing the impacts of climate change, as each day the tide claims more of the island and submerges peoples’ homes in ocean water.
This video provides a small view of a major issue concerning many people world-wide, and a metaphor for unyielding faith of those confronted by imminent disaster. As day turns to night and untamed waves sweep across the artist’s body she lays prostrate, arms outstretched, desperately holding on to the stone platform, to her island, to the hope of salvation. The waves wash across her body in an almost cleansing motion. Tiatia’s video speaks of the constant and unrelenting faith required of the people of Tuvalu, who confront a monumental challenge each day and struggle against it.
Angela Tiatia explores contemporary culture, drawing attention to its relationship to representation, gender, neo-colonialism and the commodification of the body and place, often through the lenses of history and popular culture.
Tiatia's work has been included in a number of important institutional exhibitions, including After the Fall, National Museum of Singapore (2017/2018); Personal Structures, 57th Venice Biennial (2017); Eighth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT 8), Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2015/16); as well as Tūrangawaewae: Art and New Zealand, Toi Art, Gallery of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand (2018).
She is represented by Sullivan + Strumpf in Sydney, Australia.
Penny Byrne's sculptural works are politically charged, highly engaging and often disarmingly humorous. Using materials such as bronze, glass, vintage porcelain figurines and found objects, Byrne's work presents an ongoing inquiry into popular culture and international politics. Her background in ceramics conservation and the law informs her practice. Byrne's ability to work across varying mediums and scales exemplifies how she challenges the boundaries and assumptions around her art.
In 2015 Byrne exhibited in Glasstress Gotika a collateral event of the 56th Venice Biennale.
Shannon Smiley was commissioned to create this painting in 2017. As part of his research he explored Darebin Creek and surrounds. He explains the inspiration behind his new work. ‘I'm enjoying making this work and becoming intimate with the Darebin area. I’ve been exploring the edge lands of Darebin, chasing down historically significant sites I've heard about, like the U.S. military bunkers and the place where the Batman treaty was signed.’ he said. Smiley looks to the Australian suburban environment for places of enchantment. In the overlooked and undefined spaces without purpose or function, a wilderness grows with an urgent will to live. Smiley’s works are romantic depictions of contemporary landscape.
Shannon Smiley is a graduate of VCA. His practice has been acknowledged through a number of significant awards including Metro Art Prize (winner, 2012) and the John Leslie Art Prize (winner, 2014). Shannon recently won the People´s Choice Award for the inaugural Bayside Acquisitive Art Prize 2015. His work is held in public and private collections including the Ballarat Art Gallery and Gippsland Art Gallery.