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Queensland Art Gallery unveils Australian art collection
Russell Drysdale (Australia NSW 1912-81), Man feeding his dogs, 1941. Oil on canvas. Gift of C.F. Viner-Hall 1961. Collection: Queensland Art Gallery.

BRISBANE.- The Queensland Art Gallery │Gallery of Modern Art has unveiled its newly reconfigured Australian art collection with a display of more than 200 historical and contemporary works, as well as major new commissions by Australian artists Daniel Boyd, Sonja Carmichael, Dale Harding, Helen Johnson and Alick Tipoti.

Acting Premier and Treasurer Curtis Pitt said QAGOMA’s expansive, reimagined Australian Collection brings the Gallery’s significant Australian art holdings together in a new and exciting way.

‘This new presentation of the Australian Collection showcases the state’s Indigenous and contemporary works with the Gallery’s historical Australian art, collected for more than 120 years,’ the Acting Premier said.

‘The Australian Collection, within Josephine UIrick and Win Schubert Galleries of Queensland Art Gallery (QAG), also features significant new acquisitions and gifts such as Arthur Boyd’s Sleeping Bride 1957-8 and Ian Fairweather’s Gethsemane 1958,’ he said.

The Acting Premier congratulated the QAGOMA team, led by Director Chris Saines, for taking the opportunity to reconsider its Australian Collection while a major collection storage upgrade was undertaken to ensure the Gallery’s extensive collection is perfectly preserved for future generations.

‘I am delighted that visitors to QAG can now enjoy a new experience of the state’s much loved collection of Australian art, together with several major new works, which all explore our important local stories,’ he said.

Mr Saines said the rehang of the Australian collection had been an ambitious but deeply satisfying undertaking. Led by the Australian Art department, it has drawn on expertise from across the Gallery.

‘We have worked to re-engage the display of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander works with familiar non-Indigenous artists in the Collection, to tell a fuller, more complete story of Australian art,’ he said.

‘We’ve also introduced the Australian Collection Hub, an interactive space with digital touchscreens where audiences can access more information about specific artworks and artists.

‘In a very exciting development, we’ve also returned QAG’s exhibition spaces as closely as possible to the original vision of architect Robin Gibson AO. We’ve opened up windows, removed many temporary walls, and created new exhibition display furnishing and seating to complement Gibson’s design.

‘In drawing together artworks from different times and across cultures, this new display traces narratives of geography, country, landscape, and the places we live and work. It also tells stories of journeying and encounter, immigration, colonisation and the expatriate experience,’ Mr Saines said.

Audiences will encounter major new wall paintings by Queensland Indigenous artist Dale Harding (Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal peoples) and TSI artist Alick Tipoti (Kala Lagaw Ya people).

The Australian landscape painted in the European tradition by artists such as Conrad Martens, Eugene Von Guerard, Arthur Streeton and Sydney Long will feature, alongside landscapes by artists such as Kenneth Macqueen and John Olsen, and representations of country by Indigenous Australian artists Judy Watson, Gordon Bennett, Mirdidigkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori and Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

A focus on portraiture, expanding on the story of contact between cultures, including colonial and immigrant experiences, is explored through works such as Auschar Chauncy’s colonial Portrait of Richard Edwards 1874, William Yang’s About my mother portfolio, 2003, William Dobell’s The Cypriot 1940 and Michael Zavros’s Bad dad 2013.

Art advocates, educators and important figures in the history of the Queensland Art Gallery are celebrated with a focus on works by Vida Lahey, Daphne Mayo and R. Godfrey Rivers.

Another central focus is a trio of religious-based works by the late, great artist Ian Fairweather, Palm Sunday 1951, Epiphany 1962 and Gethsemane 1958, the recent generous gift of Philip Bacon AM.

The central importance of the Brisbane River, bay and surrounding islands is celebrated with artworks such as George Wishart’s A busy corner of the Brisbane River 1897, Isaac Walter Jenner’s Queensland natives, the Currigee Oyster Company’s Station, Stradbroke Island, Moreton Bay 1897, and an installation of jewel coloured bowls by Quandamooka weaver Sonja Carmichael.

Another aspect of the collection focuses on the many hundreds of years Macassan traders from Sulawesi, Indonesia, have travelled to Australia over the Timor Sea to trade and share knowledge with northern Australian Aboriginal communities. This connection is explored through artworks including Larrtjanga Ganambarr’s Balirlira and New Zealand artist Michael Stevenson’s The gift (from Argonauts of the Timor Sea) 2004–06, a replica of the raft used by artist Ian Fairweather in his infamous journey from Darwin to Indonesia.

Physical engagement with the land is drawn into focus through works including Hans Heysen’s Quarry at Mt Osmond 1950, William Delafield Cook’s A haystack 1982, Gunybi Ganambarr Buyku 2015, Robert Klippel’s No. 247 metal construction 1965-68, Shirley McNamara’s woven Gutuu (vessels) 2000, Yvonne Koolmatrie’s Bi-plane 2006 and Hot-air balloon 2006, as well as a major new commission Untitled (HNDFWMIAFN) by Daniel Boyd (Kudjla/Gangalu people), exploring the history of South Sea Islander labour in Queensland and its legacy.

The emergence of Modernism in Australia is explored through Roland Wakelin’s The bridge under construction, 1928, Grace Cossington Smith’s Church interior c.1941-42, Ralph Balson’s Constructive painting 1947, Grace Crowley’s (Abstract) 1951 and Godfrey Miller’s Trees in moonlight 1955-57, while Abstraction after 1960 is highlighted with works by Howard Arkley, Robert Hunter, John Peart, Nora Wompi and others.

The reimagined Australian collection concludes with key works from the Central and Western Desert by artists including Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, Uta Uta Tjangala, Anatjari Tjakamarra, Kaapa Mbitjana, Johnny Warrangkula Tjupurrula, Doreen Reid Nakamarra and Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

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