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Tony Albert's 'Conversations with Margaret Preston' on view at Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney
Installation view of Tony Albert, Conversations with Margaret Preston. Image courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf.

SYDNEY.- In their second major show of the year, Sullivan+Strumpf are presenting the latest offerings from one of Australia’s most exciting young Indigenous artists, Tony Albert, in a metaphorical collaboration with one of the country’s leading early 20th century modernists, Margaret Preston.

Born in 1875, Margaret Preston was progressive for her beliefs that the richness and sophistication of Indigenous Australian iconography should be incorporated into a national visual language that would set Australia apart.

In her quest to foster an Australian brand identify she was one of the first non-Indigenous Australian artists to use the unique designs and motifs and natural-pigment colour schemes of local Aboriginal artists in her work.

Whilst Albert perceives that Preston’s intentions were meaningful, her success unintentionally opened the door to an onslaught of cultural pillaging, with increasing numbers of Aboriginal designs and motifs openly appropriated as adornment for domestic homewares and décor over decades to come.

Renowned for his distinctly contemporary imagery, which engages with political, historical and cultural Aboriginal and Australian history, Tony Albert has long been fascinated by the visibility and invisibility of Aboriginal people across the news media, literature and the visual world. Put simply by the artist as “what is seen and unseen.”

In this latest body of work entitled Conversations with Margaret Preston he looks at the ideas, philosophies behind Preston’s push to create a visual national identity, her artistic influence in the branding of a nation, and the resulting spawning and saturation of a mass market industry of kitsch objects that naively and stereotypically depict Aboriginal people and their culture, termed by Albert as “Aboriginalia”.

Using vintage fabrics from his own vast collection, Albert turns the tables on history, cheekily yet assertively reclaiming the designs and motifs from Preston’s Aboriginal woodblock prints, to honour the subjects and voices of the work’s original creators.

Tony Albert: Conversations with Margaret Preston launched Thursday March 18 at Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney, 799 Elizabeth Street, Zetland, until Saturday April 10. View online at

Enjoy a behind the scenes look into Tony’ Albert’s studio, and the making of Conversations with Margaret Preston on this Vimeo.

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