SYDNEY.- The Museum of Contemporary Art
will present the first solo exhibition of works of leading contemporary Australian artist, Fiona Foley.
Fiona Foley: Forbidden, which runs from 12 November 2009 until 31 January 2010, comprises key works spanning fifteen years to provide a comprehensive overview of the artists practice. Fiona Foley is a leading and prolific Australian artist, as well as an influential curator, writer and academic. Her work has been exhibited in Europe, the United States and Asia, and her public commissions feature in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
A Badtjala woman from the Hervey Bay region which encompasses Fraser Island in Queensland, Foley is known for her unflinching examinations of Australias past. Presenting work with uncompromising titles such as No shades of white and Lick my black art, she traces the significance of Australian colonial history and its legacy within the present. In particular, her research into the systematic dispossession experienced by Indigenous people in Queensland at the turn of the twentieth century by colonialists has provided motivation for much of her work.
Fiona Foley: Forbidden features photographs, sculpture and installation, printmaking and video encompassing 1994 to the present. Exhibited works explore a broad range of themes that relate to politics, language, female sexuality, race and the history of opium in Queensland. Her images are born out of the experiences of Indigenous people in Australia, yet they resonate for the first peoples of other lands, and to those who are categorised as other here in this country.
Foleys photographs often involve a performative element and she frequently places herself within the pictorial frame. While her works carry an ideological current that cannot be ignored, she cloaks her politics within symbols and scenarios that are all the more powerful for their restraint. It would, however, be a mistake to interpret her work only in terms of its overt political content, to place itwithin the identity straightjacket of Aboriginality, or simply to decode the recurrent symbols that she uses.
What I am trying to talk about is a notion of truth, Fiona Foley says. I suppose my reputation has preceded me because when I see something that doesnt sit well, I always question it. But it is an oversimplification to call me a political artist and just slot me in a box. I dont see myself that way. Ive worked with different themes at different times in my life. I see my role more as an educator, says Foley.
Key photographic suites include Native Blood and Badtjala Woman (1994) which feature the artist restaging the poses and attire associated with 19th century ethnographic photography; the powerful HHH series (2004), a subversive response to racial politics in the USA and the Ku Klux Klan or KKK; and Foleys most recent work inspired in part by the 2005 Cronulla race riots, Nulla 4 eva (2009). Her recent film Bliss (2006) will also feature, as will the photographic suite Wild Times Call (2001) created with the Seminole community in Florida, USA, which will be ambitiously installed within a sea of corn at the MCA.
Fiona Foley: Forbidden also features significant sculptural works by the artist including Black Velvet (1996). Comprising nine cloth dilly bags bearing red and black vulva shapes, this work lends a powerful presence to the exhibition, addressing notions of colonial subjugation and the sexuality of Indigenous women. Land Deal (1995) comprises a large spiral of flour upon the gallery floor and related objects which refer to the exchange of items promised by John Batman in 1835 to the Wurundjeri people of Victoria in return for their land. A yearly tribute of items was also promised but not honoured; and in 1837 Batmans treaty was declared invalid by the Governor of NSW on the basis of terra nullius.