Featuring the work of seven artists drawn from South West, South Central and South East Australia, Primavera 2015 opens to the public on 22 September. The artists in this year’s Primavera extract earth materials, work with sound, video and installation and create assemblages reflecting strategies of survival and the revival of forms of cultural production. The exhibition is curated by Sydney-based Aboriginal artist Nicole Foreshew, 2015 MCA Curatorial Fellow.
Primavera is the MCA’s annual exhibition of young Australian artists aged 35 and under. Since 1992, the Primavera series has showcased the works of artists and curators in the early stages of their career, many of whom have gone on to exhibit nationally and internationally. In 2015, Primavera celebrates its 24th edition.
Hailing from four states and territories across Australia, the young artists in this year’s exhibition are: Abdul Abdullah (born in 1986, Perth, WA, lives and works in Sydney, NSW), Heather Douglas (born in 1994, Titjikala, NT, where she still lives and works), Taloi Havini (born in 1981, Arawa, autonomous region of Bougainville, migrated to Australia in 1990, lives and works in Melbourne, VIC), brothers Vincent & Vaughan O’Connor (both born in 1985, Sydney, NSW, where they still live and work), Steaphan Paton (born in 1985, Mildura, VIC, lives and works in Melbourne, VIC) and Lucy Simpson (born in 1981, Sydney, NSW, where she still lives and works).
Primavera 2015 curator Nicole Foreshew explains: 'The practices foregrounded in this exhibition, and the cultures and conditions of life, work and history that they emerge from, are situated within a broader experience of a resurgent ‘Global South’, within which peoples belonging to a diversity of cultures question received ideas of identity, culture and power.’
Foreshew adds: 'The importance of this extends to Aboriginal art-making in the ‘South’ or South Eastern region of Australia. There is a commonly held perception that cultural practices and activities have ceased, or have changed too much to have any value or visible relevance to broad audiences. Yet as the work of artists in this year’s Primavera demonstrates, Aboriginal art practices emerging from the wreckage of first contact and generations of colonial impacts are assuming an increasingly important role in the continuation of our nation’s cultural strength.’
With a reputation for uncovering new artistic talent, this year’s Primavera artists join the ranks of some of Australia’s leading contemporary artists including Shaun Gladwell, Gail Hastings, Jess MacNeil and more recently, Rebecca Baumann, Kate Mitchell, Marian Tubbs and Paul Yore.
Nicole Foreshew is a Sydney-based Aboriginal artist born in 1982. She is a member of the Wiradjuri nation, in Central West NSW, and works across a range of mediums, from photomedia, design to sculpture, film and video.
In 2014 Nicole was awarded the Parliament NSW Aboriginal Art Prize and the Arts NSW Aboriginal Arts Fellowship for her project Grounded. In 2012 she was resident artist at the Darling Fonderie studios, Montreal in partnership with Parramatta Artist Studios and the Canadian Council for the Arts, 2012 and was awarded NSW Parliamentary Prize College of Fine Arts (COFA) Professional Development Award in 2012.
Nicole has also taken part in several notable group shows across Australia and internationally, most notably in Maamungun Compatriots, a group exhibition with works by Michael Riley and Jonathan Jones at Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi Australia’s Oz Fest Festival in India in 2012, Shadowlife at Bendigo Art Gallery, curated by Natalie King and Djon Mundine, 2013, and a major public artwork commission born in darkness before dawn, for Place Projections, Eora Journey, a City of Sydney arts initiative, 2013. In 2015, she is the Curatorial Fellow at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The MCA Curatorial Fellowship is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
Primavera is an annual exhibition for young Australian artists aged 35 years and under. It was initiated in 1992 by Dr Edward Jackson AM and Mrs Cynthia Jackson AM and their family in memory of their daughter and sister Belinda, a talented jeweller who died at the age of 29. The exhibition commemorates Belinda Jackson by celebrating the creative achievements of talented young artists who are in the early stages of their careers.
The MCA welcomes the return of HUGO BOSS as the supporting sponsor for Primavera 2015, and acknowledges the continued support of the Nelson Meers Foundation.
Born 1986, Perth, WA. Lives and works Sydney, NSW.
Abdul Abdullah’s practice engages with discourses of national identity, masculinity, race and religion. His work is informed by his identity as a seventh generation Australian growing up as Muslim in a post-September 11 world. Portraiture and the human form play a central role in his large-scale paintings and photographs, which utilise shadow and colour to form bold compositions. Recent work has dealt explicitly with young Muslim identity in Australia, centred on themes of alienation, isolation, loss and emotional volatility.
Abdullah has exhibited widely in Australia and internationally since graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Art) from Curtin University of Technology in 2008. Recent solo exhibitions include: I see a darkness, Future Perfect, Singapore, 2014; Siege, Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne, 2014; and Homeland, Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne, 2013. In 2013/2014, he exhibited in group shows in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and London. His work is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, The Islamic Museum of Australia and The Bendigo Art Gallery. He has been a finalist in the Archibald Prize three times, in 2011, 2013 and 2014 with a portrait of artist Richard Bell.
Born 1994, Titjikala, NT. Lives and works Titjikala, NT.
Heather Douglas’ art practice can be seen as an ongoing dialogue between medium and collaboration, highlighting the fragility of everyday life in remote Titjikala. Titjikala is situated south of Alice Springs on the western edge of the Simpson Desert, which occupies a portion of the lower south-east of the Northern Territory, and has become the home to Arrernte, Luritja and Pitjantjatjara people. Drawing on kinship and family living in the Titjikala area for several generations, Douglas works across a range of mediums, from printmaking and drawing to sculpture, film and music. She creates site-specific interventions using everyday modes of technology, mobile phone applications, pencil etched slogans on local structures and organised graffiti activities. All her work explores relationships between community and the individual, the personal and public, historical and contemporary.
In June 2015, Douglas travelled to Germany, where a combined choir performed at the bi-annual Kirchentag Festival in Stuttgart, which drew 100,000 people. The combined Aboriginal choirs, comprising approximately 50 singers from the Central Desert, showcased their unique tonality, languages, multi-lingual choral skills and musicianship. Recent projects have included creating short films working with ABC Open’s David Nixon, learning the basics of video production and photography to record stories from Titjikala community elders. Douglas has exhibited at the Beanie Festival, Alice Springs since 2009; Colours of Concordia, Concordia College, Adelaide; and, People, Pots, Punu and Places, June Marriott Gallery, Alice Springs, 2012.
Born 1981, Arawa, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, migrated to Australia 1990. Lives and works Melbourne, VIC.
Taloi Havini’s work is concerned with the politics of place and the intergenerational transmission of Indigenous Knowledge Systems through material collections, archives and has a living connection to cultural practitioners from her retrospective homelands within Oceania. She works across a range of media including photography, print, video, ceramics, and installation, and is actively involved in cultural heritage projects, exhibitions, research and community development in Melanesia and Australia. Her 2011 work, Blood Generation, comprised a major series of portraits of friends and relatives born in Bougainville during the ten-year long conflict, which ended in 1997.
Havini has exhibited in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region since 2002. Recent exhibitions include: Meleponi Pasifika, iCAN Indonesian Contemporary Art Network, Yogyakarta, 2014; and, 18C, Blak Dot Gallery, Melbourne, 2014. Her work is to be included in the upcoming 8th Asia Pacific Triennial at Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. Her work is held in public and private collections including the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, National Gallery of Victoria, and ANU Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the Canberra School of Art at the Australian National University.
Vincent & Vaughan O’Connor
Both born 1985, Sydney, NSW. Both artists live and work Sydney, NSW.
Vincent and Vaughan O’Connor are twin brothers, interdisciplinary artists, writers and curators based in Sydney. Vincent and Vaughan maintain independent practices, coming together around specific bodies of research and collaborative artworks in response to site, technology, social history and the natural world. Collaborative works include electronic devices, sound generators, and photography that embody the complexities of sites and constructed spaces, displaying the competing relationships of land use and ecology within New South Wales.
Vincent is currently a PhD candidate at UNSW Art and Design. He has exhibited widely in Sydney and in other capital cities, including: The World is Flat, Breezeblock Gallery, Sydney, 2014; Mound, Pop up Gallery: Bare life, Magnetic Island, 2013; Proto, Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney; and, It is what it is: Shed, Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, 2013. Vaughan currently works as Assistant Curator and Research Assistant at UNSW Galleries. His writing has been published in Artlink, Das Superpaper and Incubate Magazine. He has curated a number of shows, most recently Strange Histories co-curated with Sandra Di Palma, Fairfield City Gallery and Museum, 2014. Recent exhibitions include Treptow Hologram, Bergmankiez Studios, Berlin.
Born 1985, Mildura, VIC. Lives and works Melbourne, VIC.
Steaphan Paton is a Melbourne-based interdisciplinary artist whose work considers the impacts of colonisation, conflict between cultures, and the telling of history. Paton grew up in Gippsland, Victoria and is a descendant of the Gunai and Monaro-Ngarigo peoples. He works across video, installation, sculpture, and new media. His mobile application, My Bullock Modified, presented at Next Wave Festival 2014, allowed users to spear virtual bullocks on the grounds of the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, exposing the conflict often erased from Australian art history.
Paton’s work has been included in numerous group, festival and prize exhibitions, including: From where I stand, Melbourne Museum, 2014; Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, 2013; and, Ngujarn and Nakun: Our Eyes, Our Footprints, Melbourne Museum (2009). He has held several solo exhibitions including Boorun’s Canoe, Melbourne Museum, 2012; and, Where the trees are big and green, Latrobe Contemporary Gallery, 2011. Paton was a recipient of the City of Melbourne Laneways Commission for his project Urban Doolagahl in 2011.
Born 1981, Sydney, NSW. Lives and works Sydney, NSW.
Lucy Simpson is a Sydney-based artist and designer with a focus on storytelling and narrative to share aspects of country and contemporary South Eastern Aboriginal culture. She is a Yuwaalaraay woman belonging to the freshwater country of the Walgett and Angledool areas of North West New South Wales, an area from which she draws inspiration for much of her work. She founded design studio and label ‘Gaawaa Miyay’ in 2009 and continues as the Artistic Director and Principal Designer.
Upon graduation in 2010 with a Bachelor of Design at the College of Fine Arts (now UNSW Art and Design), Simpson received the COFA Object Award in Design and the Longina Phillips Textiles Award. Lucy has exhibited works in group shows at Object Australian Design Centre, Blacktown Arts Centre, Casula Powerhouse, as part of the London Design Festival and at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad India. In 2014 Lucy was named one of the four recipients of the British Council’s Indigenous Creative Leadership Program.
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