John Curtin Gallery | Makuru Season
LINDY LEE: Moon in a Dew Drop SOFT/HARD: radical love by R. Goo Carrolup coolingah wirn – The spirit of Carrolup children
WANJU, WELCOME Welcome to Makuru season. This is the time of year when the cold and wet weather sets in here in the South West of Western Australia. It’s an important time to slow down, share stories and learn from one another. At the John Curtin Gallery we present three important exhibitions linked by the themes of identity, acceptance, and our place within the world. Our major exhibition, Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Drop, staged across our three main galleries, is a survey exhibition touring from the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Lindy Lee employs a spectacular array of processes in her mark-making, including the use of fire, rain and flung molten bronze. She draws on her Australian and Chinese heritage to develop works that engage with the history of art, cultural authenticity, personal identity and the cosmos. Key influences are the philosophies of Daoism and Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, which explore the connections between humanity and nature. In the Atrium and Access Gallery we present an exhibition of works drawn from the Curtin University Art Collection, Soft/Hard: radical love by R. Goo. This exhibition responds to the theme of ‘Queering the Gallery’ through the unique perspective of the late multidisciplinary trans artist, Bec O’Neil who worked under the
pseudonym ‘R. Goo’. Through the Curtin Bachelor of Fine Art student placement program, Bec spent several weeks working closely with the Collection in 2021 under the guidance of Collection Manager, Lia McKnight. Covering a diverse range of media, there are close to 40 works created over a period of 50 years. Drawing them all together is Bec’s vision of acceptance of ourselves and others in whatever shape or form we take. Themes of identity are also evident in the ongoing exhibition Carrolup coolingah wirn – The spirit of Carrolup children. Curated by Michelle Broun in her role as Curator, Australian First Nations Art, this exhibition presents cultural and artistic expressions by children under duress who experienced the racist policies of forced child removal. It is a story of resilience and celebrates the endurance of the human spirit. This exhibition is an important step on the journey towards truth-telling, justice and healing. We encourage you to take your time to view these exhibitions, choosing a few works to spend 10 minutes or more with. Like other mindfulness practices, this ‘slow-art’ approach provides an opportunity to reflect on the world and our place within it. We hope these exhibitions inspire you to reflect on the ideas explored by the artists, and in this time of Makuru, gather with your friends and family to share your stories.
Lindy Lee, Palace of Sunlight (detail), 2017, flung bronze, 120cm diameter. Image courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney and Singapore with the assistance of UAP.
CARROLUP COOLINGAH WIRN – THE SPIRIT OF CARROLUP CHILDREN The child artists of Carrolup were forcibly removed from their families and detained at the Carrolup Native Settlement, South West region of Western Australia, in the 1940s. From 1946–1950 they created hundreds of beautiful artworks, mainly landscapes. The children were inspired by Noongar Boodja (Noongar Country) and encouraged to draw with Government-issued chalk, charcoal, pastel and pencils. They went on to receive local and international acclaim for their art, which was at the time heralded as equal in merit to that of Albert Namatjira. As with Namatjira, the story unfolds to reveal a system of racism, control and trauma which continues to adversely impact communities today. Despite their obvious talent, the children were forced to become domestic slaves, farm hands and station hands under government assimilation policies of the time. The story of Carrolup and The Herbert Mayer Collection of Carrolup Artwork is one of hope inspired by a group of children whose art belied the trauma they suffered. Their teachers, Noel and Lily White, delivered a program to develop confidence and hope for their future. Mrs Florence Rutter, the kind and clever philanthropist from the UK, introduced the children’s art to the world, placing Carrolup
firmly on the international map. However, the children’s success was also their undoing, attracting unwanted attention to the plight of Aboriginal people at the hands of the State Government. The Settlement was suddenly closed and the children ‘dispersed’ to other institutions in 1951. Many survivors of these Stolen Generations went on to become high achievers in government and academia, acclaimed artists, parents and grandparents, despite the trauma they suffered. But some continued to experience a cycle of incarceration, the highest rates of which are still experienced by Aboriginal people today. The handful of people who survive today share their lived experience from Carrolup, and are joined by their descendants and others of the Stolen Generations, in a fight for justice which recognises the trauma they endured. The art of Carrolup allows us to share the truth of Australia’s history under settlement colonisation, and an opportunity to consider the healing needed in order to restructure a nation based on equity and justice. Above Parnell Dempster, Dawn, c1949, pastel and charcoal on paper, 58.5 × 76 cm. The Herbert Mayer Collection of Carrolup Artwork, Curtin University Art Collection. Gift of Colgate University, USA, 2013.
SOFT/HARD RADICAL LOVE BY R. GOO 3 JUNE –28 AUGUST 2022 Soft/Hard: radical love by R. Goo is a queering of the Curtin University Art Collection curated by the late trans artist Bec O’Neil which deftly interlaces the personal and the political; the exhibition positions the struggle for LGBTQIA+ liberation since the 1960s as the backdrop to the psychological work of queer selfformation and acceptance. Despite the hard-won strides made over the past sixty years or so, as queer, trans or gender nonconforming folks, we grow up in a culture that erases our existence. As children, we often lack the language to describe who we are and what we feel, but as we recognise our difference, we also become aware that the world regards us as unnatural, illegitimate, and that there is something shameful about our inner lives, bodies, and relationships. Many of us grow up in hiding, flitting between visibility and invisibility, like phantoms. We become skilled in detecting sprinkles of queer stardust in pop culture and beyond, touchstones that remind us that we are not alone, and which help us to imagine possible selves. Often, we only encounter our own community after leaving home, at least, that was true of my generation. When we can see, be in the same space with, and connect with Others like us, it’s liberating and also disorientating. We learn that coming out—showing ourselves—is not an isolated event but an ongoing practice that looks different depending on context, and which requires vigilance for signs of danger. Queer spaces and rituals provide relief from this constant self-surveillance, help us to navigate our bodies and desires, blend the sacred and hedonic, and subvert the cultural imperative towards cis heteronormativity. Such practices bleed into and are mirrored in the creative sphere, and this framework guides my encounter with Bec’s exhibition.
The organising logic of Soft/Hard is intuitive and rhizomatic, as opposed to taxonomic or art historical. Bec has selected works by queer artists, but also works that have a queer resonance. The riot of colour in Peter Phillips and Friendensreich Hundertwasser’s works hint at rainbow flags, pageantry and revelry, while Joan Ross’s neon spray conveys a subversive punk sensibility. The partially concealed, four-handed figure in Christian Thompson’s hallucinatory Subconscious Whispers (2018) either beckons or warns the viewer away from a lush, sticky wall of Australian flora. Peter Flanagan’s Complications (1981) is suggestive of gender affirmation practices such as surgery, binding and padding. Kim Stanley Medlen’s beautifully crafted objects operate as memorials, referencing the legacy of the HIV/ AIDS pandemic, and Janis Nedela’s bound and ravaged books allude to secrets, omissions and lost knowledge. I didn’t know Bec personally, but through his creative and curatorial work I recognise his investment in the challenging work of queer / trans liberation. His engagement with the Curtin Collection contributes to a recent tradition of queer interventions with historical archives and collections, which enable us to trace our presence across time, illuminating the omissions that render us invisible or voiceless in the historical record, despite the ubiquity of our existence in all cultures. These practices help us to locate our ancestors and the wisdom they hold: who we are, where we come from, and how we thrive. In this sense, Bec’s exhibition is a work of reclamation and a familial embrace, a love letter to those who come after. Dr Theo Costantino
From left John Paul, The Eclipse, 1993, oil on canvas, 168 × 122 cm. Curtin University Art Collection. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Jo Lagerberg and Stephen Swift, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist. Joan Ross, Touching other people’s butterflies, 2013, hand painted pigment print on cotton rag paper, 39 × 70 cm. Curtin University Art Collection. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Joan Ross, 2021. Image Courtesy of the artist and Michael Reid, Sydney. Lindy Lee in her studio, Sydney, 2014, image courtesy the artist, Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney and Singapore and Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, photograph: Lee Nutter. Lindy Lee, Traversing the Nine Sections of the World, 2015, from The Tyranny and Liberation of Distance, UV-cured pigment inkjet print, black mild steel, fire, 109 × 118 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Sutton Gallery, Melbourne.
LINDY LEE MOON IN A DEW DROP 3 JUNE –28 AUGUST 2022 Almost all my life I’ve been preoccupied with the nature of ‘self’ in the world. For me it has to do with being a divided self — Chinese and Australian — and the feeling of being neither this nor that but both. LINDY LEE
One of Australia’s foremost contemporary artists, Lindy Lee was born in Brisbane in 1954 to parents who emigrated from China. Lee’s practice explores her Chinese ancestry through Daoism and Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism – philosophies that see humanity and nature as inextricably linked. Curated by Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE AM and Associate Curator Megan Robson, this exhibition maps the development of Lee’s work, from her response to art history and how it focused her thinking about living between two worlds, through to her discovery of the power of meditation and the interconnectedness of everything in the cosmos, a key principle in Buddhist philosophy. Lee’s deeply present and meditative approach to artmaking is evidenced in the transcendent qualities of her artworks that unfold with slow grace and assurance. The title Moon in a Dew Drop is taken from a collection of writings by Zen philosopher, Dōgen, a 13th century Zen monk. The moon represents the infinite and changing nature of the universe and time passing. The dew drop is an impermanent piece of phenomena in the natural world. This title invokes the idea that in this tiny dew drop reflecting the moon, the whole universe can be contained. Everything is connected. Time passing is a major theme throughout this exhibition.
The most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s practice to date, the exhibition presents key works from the very beginning of her career to the present. It includes early works inspired by European painters, a series on her family history, and paintings and installations which reference her study of Zen Buddhism. The artist has created a number of new artworks for the exhibition tour including Water + Water (2020), a large paper work created using natural elements of fire and water; and Untitled (2020), an installation comprising of small sculptures individually created by the artist by hand-pouring molten bronze. In addition, a further eight works have been selected specifically by the artist for John Curtin Gallery, making this exhibition a unique iteration of this touring program. Lindy Lee’s work is especially pertinent today, as society is challenged by the extent of the climate crisis, the impact of the global pandemic, the rise of populist policies that foster racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Her work is essentially concerned with the direct and intimate connection between all life. Humanity and nature are woven together into the fabric of the cosmos and can never be separated. Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Drop is organised and toured by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. The project has been assisted by the Australian Government’s Visions of Australia program.
DIRECTOR’S ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Thank you to Kathryn Sawyer, Megan Robson and the team at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia for their incredible professionalism and support in presenting our enhanced version of Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Drop, which has been made possible through the Australian Government’s Visions of Australia program. We would like to acknowledge the curatorial vision of Elizabeth Ann Macgregor and especially thank Lindy Lee herself for being so generous with her time, for lending additional work and for travelling to Perth for the launch of the exhibition. Beth Scholey’s assistance has been instrumental in helping us to present Soft/Hard: radical love by R. Goo in a way that is as authentic as possible to Bec O’Neil’s unique vision. We are profoundly grateful for Beth’s commitment to this project and would also like to thank their team of dedicated volunteers who enabled us to transform the Atrium and Access Gallery with
Publication copyright 2022 John Curtin Gallery Text Copyright © Theo Constantino All rights reserved. This exhibition catalogue is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private research, criticism or review, as permitted under the copyright act, no material whether written or photographic may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the artist, authors and Curtin University. The opinions expressed in this catalogue are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the John Curtin Gallery or Curtin University. All works of art are copyright of the artists. ISBN: 978-0-6450795-4-8 Catalogue Production Coordinator: Lia McKnight Designer: Isabel Krüger Printing: Advance Press, Perth John Curtin Gallery Staff Director: Chris Malcolm Gallery Manager: Jane King Manager, Carrolup: Kathleen Toomath Curator / Collection Manager: Lia McKnight Collection Manager: Barbara Cotter
Presented in association with
Supporting exhibition partners
J C G D ONOR CI R CL E
vibrant paint. We would also like to thank Bec O’Neil’s family for their support of this project, lending works from their personal collection. Finally, thank you to Gallery Manager, Jane King, who has worked tirelessly to oversee operational and programming activities in my recent absence. Thank you to all the team at the John Curtin Gallery who make magic happen every season. The team’s collective dedication and teamwork continue to astonish me but I would like to especially acknowledge Lia McKnight who liaised closely with the team from the MCA on the Lindy Lee exhibition, as well as co-ordinating Soft/Hard: radical love by R. Goo. Without her this season simply wouldn’t have happened. Thank you everyone.
This publication supports the exhibitions: LINDY LEE Moon in a Dew Drop 3 June–28 August 2022 SOFT/HARD radical love by R.Goo 3 June–28 August 2022 Carrolup coolingah wirn – The spirit of Carrolup children 11 February–4 December 2022 John Curtin Gallery Building 200A Curtin University Kent Street, Bentley Western Australia 6102
Chris Malcolm Director, John Curtin Gallery
Phone: +61 (0)8 9266 4155 Email: email@example.com Website: jcg.curtin.edu.au
Curator, Australian First Nations Art: Michelle Broun Adjunct Curator/Senior Researcher, Carrolup: Helen Idle Gallery Administrative Coordinator: Patti Belletty Gallery Communications Coordinator: Sue-Lyn Moyle Visual Communications Coordinator: Brad Coleman Digital Communications Officer: Sharon Baker Exhibitions Registrar: Jacqui Monks Collection Officer Campus Display: Matthew McAlpine Collection Assistant: Olivia Jones Gallery Assistants: Tarryn Gill, Rae Walter Production Manager: Jann Thompson Gallery Installation Officer: David Reid Installation Assistants: Sean Mitchell, Bjoern Rainer-Adamson, Sebastian Befumo, Mir Ng, Jacob Kotzee Gallery Attendants: Mary Peck, Carlie Germs, Intan Gargita
Cover Lindy Lee, Under the Shadowless Tree (detail), 2020, installation view, Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Drop, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2020, synthetic polymer paint, beeswax, oil on Alucabond, 205 × 203 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, photograph: Jessica Maurer.