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Queensland Art Gallery Presents a Major Exhibition of Contemporary Torres Strait

QUEENSLAND.- Elaborate dance machines and headdresses, an intricate six-metre long linocut and a tall sail emblazoned with totemic symbols are among the diverse artworks that will make up the largest ever exhibition of contemporary art from the Torres Strait Islands, is on view at the Gallery of Modern Art from July 1 until October 9.

Queensland Art Gallery Director Tony Ellwood said ‘Land, Sea and Sky: Contemporary Art of the Torres Strait Islands’ would form part of the South Bank Cultural Centre’s major collaborative project The Torres Strait Islands: A Celebration, being launched on July 2.

Mr Ellwood said ‘Land, Sea and Sky’ spanned GoMA’s Level 3 galleries, and included over 200 works by more than 40 artists including painting, drawing, weaving, dance objects, prints, film, video, textiles, ceramics and installations from the Queensland Art Gallery’s collection, as well as major new commissions and key loans.

‘The Gallery is extremely proud to be presenting this major exhibition that embraces the cultural and practical significance of land, sea and sky for Torres Strait Island people and its influence on their art. ‘The exhibition highlights the diversity and depth of Torres Strait Islander culture - its long and proud history of producing beautiful and powerful objects for ceremony, use and decoration – and it includes works by many different island groups as well as mainland and urban groups.

‘The burgeoning contemporary print movement of the Torres Strait Islands, together with skills fostered by the tradition of wood carving transferred to lino and woodcut print making, is highlighted in a significant group of works by artists including Dennis Nona, Alick Tipoti, Billy Missi, Brian Robinson and Joel Sam.

‘The significance of dance is also celebrated in zamiyakal (elaborate articulated dance objects made to accompany performances) by Ken Thaiday, and through interpretations of the iconic dhoeri/dari headdress by George Nona, George Arago Sambo and Obery Sambo and feathered headdresses by Sipau Audi Gibuma and Allson Edrick Tabuai.

‘Acclaimed print artist Alick Tipoti will take over GoMA’s Pavilion Walk with an enormous commissioned mural that depicts the shovel nose shark’s creation of the Milky Way.

‘Rosie Barkus has produced a trio of four-metre long printed textiles which tell stories of the Torres Strait Islands history, including the impact of the Pacific War and the Islander relationship with the sea.

‘The innovative use of plastics in the weaving of baskets are on display with a room of brilliantly coloured bags, including those by senior artist and elder Jenny Mye and members of her family.

‘Other major commissions in ‘Land, Sea and Sky’ include a suite of works on paper based on weather patterns by senior artist Segar Passi, a major new assemblage from photographer and video maker Destiny Deacon.

‘Brian Robinson mixes elements of traditional Torres Strait culture with European ideas of representation and reverence in his fresco style work Up in the heavens the gods plan their next move…, and an innovative sculptural installation by Kevin O’Brien will map the artist’s family tree using nautical floats,’ Mr Ellwood said.

‘Artists from Erub Erwer Meta Art Centre have produced a group of 22 powerful charcoal drawings illustrating totemic themes. Images from these drawings have also been transferred onto a tall sail reminiscent of traditional outrigger canoe sails, to create a spectacular reminder of the seafaring prowess of these island communities.

‘Local TSI film maker Douglas Watkin has created a specially commissioned work that presents a tale from his family history in an animated film in the style of a graphic novel.

‘Importantly ‘Land, Sea and Sky: Contemporary Art of the Torres Strait Islands’ will give audiences an overwhelming sense of the innovation and vitality of contemporary Torres Strait Islander culture.’

Mr Ellwood said the Gallery was delighted to be able to participate in The Torres Strait Islands Cultural Centre project, which includes TSI projects presented by the State Library of Queensland, Queensland Museum South Bank and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

‘Coinciding with the 140th anniversary of the ‘Coming of the Light’, which marks the arrival of the London Missionary Society in the Torres Strait Islands in 1871, the opening weekend celebrations for The Torres Strait Islands project includes a major program of workshops, talks, food and culture.

‘Performances by visiting artists and groups from the Torres Strait Islands will come together with local community groups and contemporary performers to produce a diverse and engaging series of events staged over two days across the Cultural Centre.’

Curated film and children’s programs will further profile aspects of Torres Strait Islander culture for Gallery visitors as part of ‘Land, Sea and Sky’.

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