The National 2017: New Australian Art

Claudia Nicholson, All I Have Are Dreams of YouConnecting three of Sydney’s key cultural precincts in a multi-venue exhibition focused solely on contemporary Australian art, The National 2017: New Australian Art has been unveiled at the Art Gallery of New Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA).

Presented concurrently at the three institutions, The National 2017 features work by emerging, mid-career and established Australian artists, showcasing new and commissioned work and encompassing a diverse range of mediums including painting, video, sculpture, installation, drawing and performance.

The exhibition offers a holistic view of Australian art at a point in time, and fosters dialogue between generations of artists. The work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists features prominently across all exhibition venues, including those practising on country and those based in urban areas.

Curated by Anneke Jaspers and Wayne Tunnicliffe (AGNSW); Lisa Havilah and Nina Miall (Carriageworks); and Blair French (MCA), The National 2017 curators have focused on delivering the exhibition within their institutions, while working together developing ideas and research, producing a single exhibition that unfolds across the three sites with key points of connection and dialogue. The National 2017 runs biennially until 2021.

At the Art Gallery of NSW, exhibiting artists explore the forces of social change. Their works open up new conversations with history and politics, looking at feminism, colonialism and our relations with the natural environment. From the vivid feminist intervention of Emily Floyd’s large scale sculpture, to the scarred beauty of the landscape in Taloi Havini’s mesmerising video and Helen Johnson’s paintings that unsettle Australia’s colonial history, the works gathered at AGNSW for The National 2017 look to our past in an endeavour to make sense of the present.

At Carriageworks, artists explore the hybrid Australian identity offering different perspectives on how identification is shaped by questions of experience, knowledge, history and power. Works present a strong performative element, including senior Kimberley regions lawman Alan Griffiths’ performance of the Bali Bali Balga with 15 indigenous dancers; an ambitious new commission by Justene Williams featuring a sculptural installation and live performance synthesising dance, costume, live music, electronic sound and vocals; and a major site-specific sculptural installation by Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran.

At the MCA, artists are drawn from every Australian state and territory, with their works considering recurrent subject matters, materials or the processes of art making. Encounter Khadim Ali’s 15-metre mural evoking migrant experiences of exclusion, isolation and waiting; the beautiful repetition of materials and forms in Rose Nolan’s monumental banner; and 32 metal-cast objects accompanied with a homemade furnace by Matthew Bradley.

The National 2017 is supported by a dedicated website offering a significant resource for users around the world on contemporary Australian art. It represents a comprehensive record of the artist participation in the inaugural exhibition, including artist biographies and portraits, curatorial and essays about artists’ work, and photographic documentation of artist works.

From late April the website will provide curator commentary on every exhibiting artists’ work via both audio file and Auslan video. The website will also house short documentary films on 13 artists and their projects including: Khadim Ali (MCA); Zanny Begg (MCA); Emily Floyd (AGNSW); Alex Gawronski (all venues); Alan Griffiths (Carriageworks); Dale Harding (AGNSW); Archie Moore (Carriageworks); Nell (MCA); Claudia Nicholson (Carriageworks); Tom Nicholson (AGNSW); Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran (Carriageworks); Rose Nolan (MCA); and Justene Williams (Carriageworks).

The National 2017 takes place at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (continues to 16 July); Carriageworks (continues to 25 June); and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (continues to 18 June). For more information, visit: www.the-national.com.au for details.

Image: Claudia Nicholson, All I Have Are Dreams of You, installation view, The National 2017: New Australian Art, Carriageworks – photo by Zan Wimberley

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