Categories: News
      Date: May 17, 2011

NEWflames News The first Artists in Residence for 2011

The past month has been an eventful and exciting one for NEWflames artists. The NEWflames studio was transformed into a hive of activity as two new artists in residence began work. Megan Cope and Shannon Brett both worked intensively during their residencies to produce two highly innovative but very different shows.


NEWflames News The first Artists in Residence for 2011

The past month has been an eventful and exciting one for NEWflames artists. The NEWflames studio was transformed into a hive of activity as two new artists in residence began work. Megan Cope and Shannon Brett both worked intensively during their residencies to produce two highly innovative but very different shows.

Megan Cope

Megan travelled to Cairns from Brisbane where she lives and works. Her traditional country is on North Stradbroke Island (the Quandamooka region). While lecturing part time at QCA at Griffith University and being involved with the artist run intiative‘tinygold' as a project director/curator, Megan has pursued her own art practice which encompasses installation, photography and painting. Having already built a solid exhibition history with her work showing in the Koori Heritage Trust in Melbourne, at Brisbane venues including the Queensland Art Gallery, Craft Queensland (Artisan), RAWSPACE, ARC Biennial, and RAWSPACE, and at the Wellington City Art Gallery (as part of Tony Albert's Pay Attention Project), Megan came to the NEWflames residency with clear goals in mind. Completing 12 new works in her "After the Flood" series using military maps, Indian ink and acrylic paint on wood, she has recreated topographical maps of areas of Queensland. Indigenous language place names have been applied to stimulate considerations of the effect of colonisation upon Indigenous Australians, a process that not only dispossessed people of their land, but also the names of places on their land.

Shannon Brett

Shannon grew up in North Queensland and she is a descendant of the Wakka Wakka, Budjula and Gurang Gurang clans of coastal South East Queensland. She applied for the NEWflames residency after completing a Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art at Griffith University in Brisbane. Having trained and studied in multiple areas of art and design, her practice extends to film and both two and three dimensional visual arts. The series of works she created during her NEWflames residency, Celebration of a Nation, is comprised of six photographic portraits. She began by advertising for locals to pose for her and found no shortage of willing participants. Setting up a makeshift photographic studio in one of the NEWflames workspaces, Shannon set about capturing her subjects in shots titled Cobber, Ranga Love, Workin it, Abuse, Mrs Jones and Un-Titled. The works address definitions of what it is to be Australian, examining the creation of stereotypes as a form of cultural expression. Multi-media artist Jenny Fraser, a NEWflame who undertook her residency in the Brisbane studio, flew in from Darwin to mentor Shannon.

The exhibition opening on March 28 was well attended by the growing following that Canopy Artspace is attracting, and the work was extremely well received. Senior artists and NEWflames Ken Thaiday Senior and Ian Waldron were on hand to show their support to Megan and Shannon who were both keen to receive feedback. Curatorial interest was shown in the work, and there are plans to include it in the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair curated exhibition at the Cairns Regional Gallery in August.

NEWflames Torres Strait artists make their mark in important exhibitions

2011 is shaping up to be a big year for Torres Strait art. Malu Minar (Sea Pattern) Art of the Torres Strait, the Cairns Regional Gallery's first international touring exhibition, opened in Cairns on April 2 after returning from a very successful showing at the ADCK Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea, New Caledonia. This is the largest survey of contemporary art from the Torres Strait since the Cairns Regional Gallery's landmark exhibition Ilan Pasin: This is Our Way in 1998 which helped create awareness of the history, art and culture of Australia's Northern-most islands.

NEWflames artists Ken Thaiday Senior and Obery Sambo both have work in this important exhibition. Ken was commissioned to make a scaled-down version of his iconic Beizam Hammerhead shark headdress, the smaller size being more manageable to freight around the world, and a dance clapper which features a painted landscape of Erub (Darnley Island). Obery Sambo was commissioned to make a mask to replace the Ricardo Idagi Bird of Paradise Man turtle shell mask which, although a magnificent work, created an administrative nightmare to exhibit in New Caledonia. Obery has developed a technique for making fibreglass turtle shells using a coloured resin. The commissioned work is a masterful piece. Nam a Beizam Le Op Nog is a headdress of imposing size, incorporating both the shark and turtle totems. A cassowary fringe crowns the turtle shell face which has a sharks mouth filled with intricately carved mother of pearl teeth.

Obery played a key role in the Community Day activities held to celebrate the opening of the exhibition playing the drum for two of his sons who performed traditional Murray Island dances. The dance costumes, dharis and leg and arm adornments, were works of art in themselves. Obery's dance group, Obery Productions, focuses on educational performances aimed at both maintaining and creating awareness of Torres Strait cultural life. Later in the day Obery presented an artist talk to a very interested audience who wanted to know more about his impressive headdress and Torres Strait culture generally. After closing in Cairns, Malu Minar will be travelled to four venues in New Zealand and plans are being made to travel it on to France, Canada and Japan.

The work of Ken Thaiday and Obery Sambo will also be included in the forthcoming Queensland Art Gallery exhibition Land, Sea and Sky: Contemporary Art of the Torres Strait Islands which will be exhibited in the upper galleries of GOMA from July 1 to October 9. This is be the largest exhibition of contemporary Torres Strait art ever staged and will include the work of over 40 artists. Ken was commissioned to make traditional Alag masks made from dry pandanus leaves, worn when dancing at community celebrations such as the Coming of the Light.

The sea, the feather and the dance machine - Ken Thaiday Senior documentary

A new documentary about the art and Erub home of NEWflames resident artist Ken Thaiday Senior was released in March. The film was made by Peter and Andrea Hylands (Creative Cowboy films) who have made documentaries about many eminent contemporary Australian artists and a four part series on Aboriginal art and culture. The sea, the feather and the dance machine shows Ken working in the NEWflames studio at Canopy Artspace in Cairns, and follows his journey back to Erub where he recalls the formative years of his youth and revisits important cultural sites. The film is a beautiful portrait of Ken and provides great insight into the influences that combine to form his artistic creations. The official launch of the documentary will take place at Canopy Artspace during the 2011 Cairns Indigenous Art Fair which runs from 19-21 August.

Featured Image: Obery Sambo, Nam a Beizam Le Op Nog (Lamar [spirit] taking form of a turtle and a shark) 2010 (DETAIL)Mixed media 100 x 65 x 55 cm