From 29 July, McClelland will present the path-breaking exhibition, Current: Gail Mabo, Lisa Waup, Dominic White – showcasing 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,” said Lisa Byrne.
“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.
Current: Gail Mabo, Lisa Waup, Dominic White
McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery, 390 McClelland Drive, Langwarrin
Exhibition: 29 July – 19 November 2023
Entry fees may apply
For more information, visit: www.mcclelland.org.au for details.
Image: Lisa WAUP, Redirected, 2021-22, installation view, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, VCA – photo courtesy the artist