Gail Mabo, Lisa Waup, Dominic White present 'Current' at McClelland

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Gail Mabo, Lisa Waup, Dominic White present 'Current' at McClelland
Gail Mabo. Installation view of Gail Mabo’s Mum’s childhood home 2021, from the exhibition House of Cards at Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts, Cairns, 2021. Image courtesy Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts.

MELBOURNE.- The pathbreaking exhibition, Current: Gail Mabo, Lisa Waup, Dominic White, at McClelland 29 July - 19 November 2023, will showcase new and recent work by three First Nations artists, developed with a mentorship program for three emerging First Nations curators, and a major catalogue featuring First Nations writers.

The three artists, Gail Mabo (Meriam), Lisa Waup (Gunditjmara/Torres Strait Islands), and Dominic White (Palawa/Trawlwoolway), are known for practices which affirm their powerful connection to their lands, waters and ancestors. The exhibition title, Current, refers at once to the vital contemporary practices of these three multidisciplinary artists, and also to the movement in the passages of water along the eastern coast of Australia which connect the land and people of Zenadh Kes/Torres Strait of the far north and lutruwita/Tasmania in the south.

McClelland director, Lisa Byrne, describes how Current will support and celebrate three First Nations artists' practices which are related in thematic concerns and material experimentation.

“The project aims to give First Nations artists, writers and emerging curators valuable opportunities to develop their practice, and will offer skills-building, promotion and

recognition for First Nations arts practitioners. It will contribute to McClelland’s central mission to promote public understanding and enjoyment of Australian, modern and contemporary art, while foregrounding opportunities for First Nations artists and self- determination. The artists will exhibit work made between 2016 and 2023, along with newly commissioned works.”

Gail Mabo has developed a multisensory installation comprising sculpture, sound, scent, and video, which builds on her recent work involving bamboo tagai or star maps and architectural recreations of her childhood home. This immersive environment intends to evoke Mabo’s ancestral connections to Mer (Murray Island) as a locus of cultural memory, with particular reference to her father Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo’s activism - which culminated posthumously in a landmark legal case enshrining native title land rights for First Nations people of Australia. Key to Gail’s new work is her further exploration of the medium of bamboo, a plant native to Mer which her father planted in groves on the campus of James Cook University as a young man.

Lisa Waup will bring together for the first time works from a period of acute activity in her career between 2016 and 2022 and will expand on these with a major new installation. Her small woven figurative sculptures incorporating natural and found materials such as feathers and hay, will be displayed alongside more recent work engaging with the print-making medium on both a small and large scale - on paper, canvas and bark. She is in the process of extending her sculptural practice and is investigating the making of a new large-scale sculptural installation specifically for the exhibition spaces at McClelland. Together, these works articulate Waup’s inalienable connection to her cultural and ancestral traditions.

Dominic White will exhibit previous works which explore the formal and conceptual properties of different types of vessel, such as coolamons and ships. With techniques ranging from blacksmithing to manipulating found natural materials such as kelp, he will also create new works based on the slave collars of the colonial frontier and on the professional suit tie worn in western culture. As part of this project, Dominic has explored his ancestral connections in the Palawa community and these works wrestle with the brutal histories of violence, slavery and dispossession in south-eastern Australia.

The Emerging First Nations Curators, including Nicholas Currie and Ashley Perry, will work on the exhibition as part of a mentoring program at McClelland to help develop First Nations opportunities to tell their own stories. The works will be presented at McClelland both indoors and outdoors, accompanied by a significant catalogue with written pieces by three First Nations writers.

Writers featured in the catalogue publication are Bernadette Boscacci, Hannah Presley and Claire G. Colman.

Reflecting the exhibition premise, the publication will extend and expand upon a number of key bodies of work that illustrate significant First Nations contemporary art and cultural practice today. It will be a critical tool in providing an ongoing resource for students, curators, artists and cultural researchers both nationally and internationally, and will appeal to diverse audiences from First Nations, contemporary art, and Australian history backgrounds.

All the works have been loaned from the artists and galleries, and from the McClelland collection. After McClelland, the exhibition will tour to Devonport Regional Gallery; QUT Art Museum; Australian Design Centre, Sydney; and the Benalla Art Gallery throughout 2024 and 2025.This project has been assisted by the Australian Government's Visions of Australia program, the Besen Family Foundation, and the Gordon Darling Foundation.

Gail Mabo

Born 1965, Townsville. Lives and works Townsville, Piadram clan from Mer Island, Torres Strait Islands. Gail Mabo commenced her artistic career in 1979 with local Townsville Dance troupe ‘New Blood Dance Troupe’. Between 1983 and 1986 she was enrolled at Sydney’s National Aboriginal and Islander Dance Academy known at the time as the Aboriginal and Islander Dance Theatre (AIDT) . This provided her with the foundation for traditional and contemporary movement, which established appropriate protocols and traditional dance techniques for both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural dance practices. Gail toured with the AIDT throughout New South Wales and nationally. In 2017 Gail was selected at the feature artist at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair. Mabo won the Innovation Award prize for a work which honoured her father and their country – Mer Island, in celebration of 25 years of the Mabo decision in the High Court of Australia. In 2017 she curated an exhibition, Legacy: Reflections on Mabo which premiered in her hometown of Townsville and toured Australian tour for four years through the Federal Government’s Visions of Australia’s funding program. Gail Mabo’s work has featured in exhibitions including the major festival Tarnanthi 2021 in Adelaide; House of Cards at Rockhampton Art Gallery and Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts in Queensland; and Under the Stars, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Lisa Waup

Born 1971 Melbourne, Gunditjmara, Torres Strait Islands, Lives and works in Melbourne. Lisa Waup is a mixed-cultural First Nations multidisciplinary artist, curator and mother born in Narrm (Melbourne). Her practice spans diverse media, including printmaking, weaving, photography, sculpture, fashion and digital art. Through strong connections to symbology and materiality, her work connects her to family, Country, history and story, exploring personal experiences and a broader historical narrative. Her work eloquently illustrates her life’s journey through connection, highlights the importance of tracing lost, stolen and hidden history, ancestral relationships, Country, motherhood, and time which are woven into stories of her past, present and future into contemporary forms. In 2017 Lisa was introduced to Melbourne-based fashion designer Ingrid Verner as part of a program supported by Creative Victoria to engage Aboriginal artists with local fashion designers. (The fabrics were screen printed at Spacecraft in Melbourne.) Ingrid and Lisa have collaborated on various projects since. Lisa completed a Masters of Contemporary Art at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2021. She has participated in numerous exhibitions including the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art; the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery; The Dax Centre, Mars Gallery, the Sidney Myer Gallery; the Koorie Heritage Trust; Art Gallery of South Australia and the National Museum of Australia. Her work is held in many public collections including the National Gallery of Victoria, Ararat Gallery TAMA, Bendigo Art Gallery, the Warrnambool Art Gallery, Deakin University, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, the Koorie Heritage Trust, Bayside City Council and McClelland. Lisa is currently a Lecturer at the Victorian College of the Arts in the Drawing and Printmaking Department.

Dominic White

Palawa, Trawlwoolway, Lives and works in Melbourne. Dominic White is a Palawa, Trawlwoolway descendant though his birth family. Dominic explores identity and relationship to place, connection to the environment. His work tries to understand the cultural and historical human activities and interaction within a Placescape. This is coupled with the philosophical structure and belief systems that support human behaviours. He works across mediums in the visual arts. He is based in Mornington Peninsula and his work has been shown in exhibitions nationally. Dominic completed a BA in Fine Art at Monash University. He completed a Graduate Diploma in Visual Art at the Australian National University and a Graduate Diploma in Education (also at Monash). He is part of the Burrinja Indigenous Advisory Committee and has been on the Baluk Arts Board. Baluk arts have represented his work. In 2022 Dominic held his first solo exhibition at Everywhen Gallery in Flinders, Victoria. Dominic teaches part time at Kambrya College, supporting his art making habit and family.

29 July –19 November 2023

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