Sullivan+Strumpf Contemporary Art Gallery Sydney, Australia and Singapore - February/March 2022

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FEB/MAR 2022

Seth Birchall Sydney Ball Karla Dickens Naminapu Maymuru-White Baden Pailthorpe Alex Seton Adeela Suleman Angela Tiatia

Editorial Directors Ursula Sullivan and Joanna Strumpf Managing Editor Alex Pedley Senior Designer & Studio Manager Matthew De Moiser Designer Danielle Ruasol


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Sullivan+Strumpf acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians on whose FRONT COVER: Alex Seton

All History is Ancient History (detail), 2022 Photo: Mark Pokorny

lands the Gallery stands. We pay respect to Elders, past, present and emerging and recognise their continued connection to Culture and Country.

A History of Forgetting Alex Seton

11 February – 17 April 2022 Alex Seton A History of Forgetting (detail) 2020, 170 x 113cm, pigment print on cotton rag. Image courtesy of the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney and Singapore

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New Beginnings Ursula Sullivan+Joanna Strumpf

The changing of a new year is always exciting, so full of expectation and anticipation for all of the new things that lay ahead—new exhibitions, new work, a new Melbourne Art Fair! Will we be able to travel? Will artists be able to attend their own shows? So many questions still unanswered. What we do know is that despite the uncertainty (or perhaps because of it) artists are still making important work. Our two upcoming solo exhibitions are fine examples of this. The first in February, by Naminapu Maymuru-White, comes off the back of the critically acclaimed National Gallery of Victoria exhibition Bark Ladies: Eleven Artists from Yirrkala. Both exhibitions are breathtaking and brimming with a deep respect for tradition and contemporary experimentation. Alex Seton’s exhibition, while covering many ideas boils down to one: memory—an idea which he comes back to time and time again and plays out in incredible works carved lovingly in his favourite medium, local Australia Wombeyan marble, including, most remarkably two shagpile carpets, one of which graces our cover. There’s a lot more to see in this issue, so relax, take off your mask (if you’re at home!), and enjoy! Urs & Jo.

LEFT: Installation view of Bark Ladies: Eleven Artists from Yirrkala from 17 December 2021 to 25 April 2022 at NGV International, Melbourne, featuring Naminapu Maymuru-White, Ri ŋgitjmi gapu, 2021, decal installation Federation Court, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and Buku Larrŋgay Mulka. Photo: Tom Ross








Karla Dickens: A Dickensian Circus and Country Show


Adeela Suleman: In the Extreme


Alex Seton: A friend, a pond, a boat and a stream


Angela Titatia Responds to Henri Matisse


Naminapu Maymuru-White: MilŊiyawuy—The River of Heaven and Earth


In the Studio: eX de Medici


At Home With: Seth Birchall


Sydney Ball: Colour and Form


Baden Pailthorpe: Ngapulara Ngarngarnyi Wirra (Our Family Tree)


Alex Seton: A History of Forgetting


Last Word: Susi Muddiman


Quick Curate: Melbourne Art Fair


Up Next




Karla Dickens in her studio, 2021. Photo: Natalie Grono

Karla Dickens: A Dickensian Circus and Country Show Stepping into her Dickensian sideshow, we enter a world of clowns, outcasts, misfits and mystics. No holds are barred on Dickens’ stage, her unapologetic assemblages and sculptures speak to the atrocities of colonisation. By Leigh Robb

A master storyteller and maverick magician of assemblage, Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens has created a career defining body of work through her Dickensian Circus and Country Show projects. Dickens’ research into Con Colleano, a world-famous Aboriginal tightrope walker led her further to investigate the presence of First Nations performers in circuses, boxing rings, regional country fairs and Easter shows. Through her astounding series of installations, sculptures, photographs, assemblages and collages, Karla Dickens has reframed the ‘greatest show on earth’ as a dystopian carnival of Australian colonial history. When she premiered her project in two parts at the 2020 Adelaide Biennial and the 2020 Biennale of Sydney across two state institutions, the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Karla Dickens unleashed a salient political satire on the historic and ongoing treatment of Aboriginal people. They were knock-out shows that were also a testament to her twenty years of art making. Drawing on her vast collection of found objects from the Lismore tip, op-shops, bought online through eBay and from small auction houses, Dickens has repurposed the trappings of agricultural country fairs and bush rodeos to illuminate a shadow-side to Australia’s past. Collage is essential to Dickens’ practice as a means of compressing the past and the present and rearranging objects or imagery to offer up a counter-narrative to the colonial project. Stepping into her Dickensian sideshow, we enter a world of clowns, outcasts, misfits and mystics. Her complex works play on the thrills of risk and taboo, violence as

entertainment, and the spectacle of difference. Her fortune tellers offer portents of doom who regale with visions of a ravaged planet. No holds are barred on Dickens’ stage, her unapologetic assemblages and sculptures speak to the atrocities of colonisation, declaring, in her own words, that ‘True Horror is the massacre of Australia’s first people’. Karla Dickens is also a talented writer and poet and she often accompanies or embeds her works with her written texts. Her first job was as a sign writer. One of the most poignant works in this series is a steel circus megaphone which features the painted words in Wiraddjuri, Wudhagarbidyabu gulbulaabu, an instruction to listen and hear, signalling that once the circus has left town, now is the time for deep listening. The artist beckons audiences to her Dickensian sideshow, leading you on a rickety ride on a ghost train through a house of horrors, which is as thrilling as it is terrifying. Round after unforgiving round, Dickens keeps you riveted on the edge of your seat. By thrusting real-world objects that capture outdated cultural attitudes into motion with her own images Dickens has produced a staggering body of works that haunt and dramatically unsettle the present.



Karla Dickens: A Dickensian Circus and Country Show


Installation view of Defying Empire, 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial 2017, National Gallery of Australia, featuring Karla Dickens, Assimilated Warriors (detail), 2014 adorned masks in mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo: Zan Wimberley

Installation view of 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres featuring Karla Dickens, A Dickensian Country Show, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Photo: Saul Steed


Karla Dickens: A Dickensian Circus and Country Show

LEFT: Karla Dickens Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, 2020, Art Gallery of New South Wales featuring Karla Dickens, A Dickensian Circus, 2020. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts, Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, Create NSW, and generous assistance from Justine and Damian Roche. RIGHT: As above. Photo: Zan Wimberley

Karla Dickens: A Dickensian Circus and Country Show

A DICKENSIAN COUNTRY SHOW A dark side of the circus behind the lights and make-up of the show is the hard reality of artists and show-people who are glued together with blood, sweat and tears searching for hope for a home-away-from-home A tribe of misfits, outsiders, freaks and no-fits the throw-aways, the shunned, the rejected and the shamed gathering and nurturing each other with a sense of belonging entertaining and warming the hearts of those who abandoned them healing the cruel while enforcing their own existence There are those who love to watch horror movies and car accidents unfold excited by the energy and horrifying misfortunes the thrill of potential death waiting for the acrobat to lose her footing the fat man to explode they feel beautiful as they cringe at the bearded lady the snake-man and any other human with unusual differences As a source of inspiration they please the crowds delivering soul-food to the outwardly whole arriving in the shadows to embrace theirs the boxing tent is raised mobs punch the air as they watch black fellas bruise and knock each other across the canvas They watch their dreams unfold as carnies scratch to feed themselves shovelling popcorn and dressed in their Sunday best making memories and dancing with deep desires sad clowns tie the truths together as they mock themselves teasing them with playful tomfoolery

By Karla Dickens

Adeela Suleman: In the Extreme For Asia Pacific Triennial (APT), Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) By Tan Siuli

Currently on show at the landmark tenth edition of the Asia Pacific Triennial, Adeela Suleman’s paintings stress the depravity of violence and conflict—one that is senseless, and deeply endemic.

Exhibition: Adeela Suleman, December 4 - April 25 2022




Adeela Suleman Sinking in the past (detail), 2019 found vintage ceramic plate with enamel paint and top coat with lacquer 13.75 x 11.5 cm.


Adeela Suleman: In the Extreme

The theme of violence runs deep in Adeela Suleman’s oeuvre. As the artist shares, ‘my interest is in violence and how violence provides pleasure and how it is embedded into our very own landscape’. [1] Suleman came to miniature painting by way of her research on war and conflict in Islam and the predominant visual documentation in her part of the world was to be found in miniature painting.[2] Retaining the delicacy of line and bejewelled lyricism in this traditional art form, her vignettes are quotations from works of Mughal miniature, reworked into beautiful but disquieting compositions. The eye, traversing the rhythmic curves of the landscape, with its undulating plains and hillocks, also takes in the mounds of dead bodies piled atop each other. Bright accents of red, spurting from headless figures, punctuate an otherwise bucolic landscape. In another work, a melee of drowned corpses echoes the arcs in a crescendo of waves. Here, aesthetics and ornamentation function as a kind of ‘screen’ to deflect the eye from overt violence but at the same time—disturbingly—also render it ‘acceptable’. Miniature painting from Pakistan has enjoyed a contemporary revival in recent years. Artists such as Suleman engage with this tradition and its conventions less to invoke the romance of a nostalgic past, but as a means of critical commentary. Many of Suleman’s earlier works feature figures taken from iconic works of Mughal miniature, repainted onto plates with their original backgrounds removed, or else set into a different miseen-scène. On occasion, a recognition of the source material adds a new layer of understanding, as narratives of betrayal and tragedy come into play. A scene of courtly love, for instance, is transformed by the artist into a tableau of violence and reciprocal treachery.


In other works, Suleman collages figures from various sources. Unmoored from their original contexts, they give the impression that one corpse is interchangeable with another; one battle is just like any other. One

receives a similar impression from the body of work at APT, where it is difficult to discern a narrative or rationale for the violence taking place. While traditional Mughal miniature was often commissioned to fête the conquests and achievements of its emperors, Suleman’s paintings stress instead the depravity of violence and conflict— one that is senseless, and deeply endemic.

“my interest is in violence and how violence provides pleasure and how it is embedded into our very own landscape.” True to the miniature tradition, these scenes of violence are painted on a delicate scale, on vintage plates thrifted from Karachi’s second-hand markets. These plates are often purchased as décor for the home or for actual use, and the scalloped edges which frame their painted centres recall the tradition of decorative borders in Mughal art. Suleman’s choice of medium for her paintings introduces a tension between the registers of high art and kitsch, as well as the disturbing implication of violence made palatable, where scenes of bloodletting are framed and served up on domestic objects. Here, violence has seeped insidiously into the home, suggesting a certain desensitisation (perhaps through the constant barrage of media images), as well as a commentary on the prevalence of violence in the artist’s socio-political milieu.

Adeela Suleman Sinking in the past, 2019 found vintage ceramic plate with enamel paint and top coat with lacquer 13.75 x 11.5 cm



Adeela Suleman installation view for the 10th Asia Pacific Triennial (APT10), 2021, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Brisbane. Photo: J Ruckli

Adeela Suleman: In the Extreme

“Suleman’s works are, in many ways, a commentary on human nature and the culture of her home country, ‘where extremes co-exist’.” Suleman has addressed the latter through another related project, which similarly recalls the aesthetics of both popular street art and the sublime apogee of South Asian art and architecture. I Don’t Want To Be There When It Happens, 2013 – ongoing, is a chandelier comprising hundreds of linked, hand-beaten tin birds. The detailed metalwork references both the vernacular art of chamakpatti in urban Karachi, as well as the finely worked repoussée silverware of the Mughal courts. The artist intended the work to be a monument and memorial for lives claimed by violence in her native Karachi, with each bird standing in for each death reported in the media. However, the escalating numbers of dead reported soon outpaced studio production. Resembling a suit of chainmail armour, the installation recalls heroic epics and scenes of battle, as well as their implications of violence and bloodshed. Lit from within, the ‘chandelier’ casts its shadows around its space and audiences are enmeshed in its shadowy subtext of death and violence. At the same time, the beauty and rhythmic

Footnotes: 1.

Personal communication with the artist, 22 November 2018.



See: N. Lankarani, ‘Going His Own Way, A Pakistani Artist Arrives’, New York Times, 13 Oct, 2010.


Whiles, Miniature Manoeuvres: Tradition and Subversion in Pakistani 5. Contemporary Art, 2006. PhD thesis, London: School of Oriental and African Studies. Pg. xxii



patterning of light and shadow on the walls evoke an elevated, transcendental environment, bringing to mind the effect of the jali screens in Mughal architecture such as Humayun’s tomb and the Taj Mahal. The tension of Suleman’s works hinges on the dichotomy between a certain romanticised ideal of Pakistan and its artistic and cultural heritage—and the often brutal reality of what its citizens and artists experience on a daily basis. From the heights of technical refinement and breath-taking beauty to senseless violence, Suleman’s works are, in many ways, a commentary on human nature and the culture of her home country, ‘where extremes co-exist’.[3] It is darkly indicative of the ‘pessimism apparent in Pakistani subjectivity, derive(d) from political instability, corruption and military oppression’. [4] Drawing on motifs and conventions from a rich artistic tradition, Suleman offers audiences at home and abroad an evocative and intimate aperture to contemplate the poles of human existence and achievement.

Exhibition: Adeela Suleman, December 4 - April 25 2022


Adeela Suleman I don’t want to be there when it happens (detail), 2013-17 hand-beaten stainless steel (repoussé), iron and bulb, dimensions variable Photo: Ng Wu Gang



Alex Seton in his studio, 2022 Photo: Mark Pokorny

Alex Seton: A friend, a pond, a boat and a stream There’s a lot I’ve come to know about Alex over the dozen or so years of our acquaintance. But perhaps his most defining quality is so ingrained it’s almost ontological—it’s an energy. He is absolutely alive to the world. By Kate Britton

Exhibition: Permanent Good Stream, Some Rocks March 24 - April 23, 2022 at Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney



Alex Seton: A friend, a pond, a boat and a stream

Alex Seton All History is Ancient History (detail), 2022 Wombeyan marble (NSW) from the traditional land of the Gundungurra 141 x 82 x 4 cm Photo: Mark Pokorny

“I can tell you without doubt that these shows have always been personal, whether that has been apparent to his audiences or not.”


I don’t remember the exact circumstances under which Alex Seton and I met. Knowing the mutual acquaintance who introduced us, it was probably in a bar. And in a bar we might have stayed, were I not undertaking an interminable PhD and—the perennial student—struggling to make ends meet. Early on, I learned something about Alex that I know to be true to this day: he’s a very generous friend. Knowing virtually nothing about me except that I needed money, he offered me a job in his studio, a role I had no particular experience or skill to bring to—I was a barista-cum-aspiring-cultural-theorist who’d never laid a finger on a tool. At the time, I thought ‘why not?’. Looking back, I think this was one of those germinal moments, a beginning of sorts. The arts—working with artists, grappling with thorny questions and abstract ideas, striving (though not always succeeding) to work in solidarity—have given shape to my life as I know it. Hindsight is a powerful thing. So off I went to work in Alex’s studio helping him carve the marble he loves so dearly. Carving soon gave way to a more natural talent—administration—and eventually, we settled into a mutually satisfying relationship based on discussion and debate, the odd glass of wine and my futile attempts to find time in the studio diary for Alex to take a break. Visiting the studio to talk about this article, I discovered he’s still trying to take this same break, more than a decade later. That’s another thing about Alex: he works, hard. Throughout my years on and off at the studio, I watched the production of some impactful shows. I watched Alex grapple with the violence of Australian nationalism, the troubling politics of the so-called ‘war on terror’, the

horror and tragedy of our government’s detention of asylum seekers. In elegiac marble he carved our nation’s headlines—big picture stuff: war, politics, the machinations of the state. I can tell you without doubt that these shows have always been personal, whether that has been apparent to his audiences or not. But broadly speaking, one could reasonably call that particular period of Alex’s career a sort of global positioning; an interrogation of what shapes the world we live in, and how we are complicit in these unintelligible webs of power and control. In his most recent shows, together a sort of loosely thematic triptych, Alex has concertinaed this focus. When grappling with the world, we must eventually reckon with our own place in it, how—and with what privileges—our perspectives are forged and take their place in the world. This recent triad of shows lift the (marble) veil on the things that have shaped Alex’s perspective, in particular the two years and two months he spent as a boy living in a small off-grid house built by his father near the Wombeyan quarry that would come to shape his life and work so. The most recent of these shows, Permanent good stream, some rocks, takes its title from the adverts placed for the rugged nature block on which the house is built. Unlike his more overtly political undertakings, which have tended to be resolutely singular in their focus and expression, Permanent good stream, some rocks is about many things, in the same way Alex himself is made up of many qualities. If you, like me, have ever found yourself in a bar with Alex Seton, you’ll know that his is a hungry mind. Conversations leap fervently from current affairs to obscure literature to art world gossip and back again,



Alex Seton in his studio, 2022. Photo: Mark Pokorny


Alex Seton: A friend, a pond, a boat and a stream


Alex Seton working on All History is Ancient History in his studio, 2022. Photo: Mark Pokorny

“To know the world we must know ourselves...And the inevitable doubt— can we ever really know anything, given the fallibility of memory?”

always after first enquiring about the health of your family. To take in this latest exhibition is akin to a night spent in conversation with Alex. It riffs on family history, materialism, philosophical paradox, digital culture, and transcendentalism, burning with questions. What does it mean to work with stone extracted from Country? How can we ever find truth in the endless stream of data in which we are immersed? If every plank of the Ship of Theseus is gradually replaced, is it the same ship? All this, delivered with characteristic humour (another of Alex’s qualities: an insatiable passion for puns). Many concerns, which ultimately boil down to a single focus—memory.

The other, a quote from Antonio Banderas (presumed to be a misquote of Croce), ‘all history is ancient history’. We are faced with two seemingly contradictory statements: that all history is innately contemporary by virtue of our reading and writing of it, always in the present moment, and that history is nothing but a rear view mirror, so many forgotten bumps in the road. The history in question here is Alex’s own, put through the wash of memory. And these works capture so much of Alex in their contradictions— hard yet soft, philosophically lofty but actually sentimental (inspired by the family pet sheep Minty), deadly serious but also slightly ridiculous.

And why not turn to memory? After all, in the times we find ourselves living, it is our memories that sustain us and give us hope. We remember that things were not always like this. We weigh our good times against our anxiety, past journeys against current ennui. It’s something that has haunted much of Alex’s work, when you look for it. He has ever been concerned with how we remember and memorialise history, how we might remember (and judge) our present actions with the wisdom of hindsight, and what responsibility each of us bears for this remembering. In Permanent good stream, some rocks, we see these questions laid at the artist’s feet. A maturing, an acknowledgement that to know the world we must know ourselves—to change the world we must reckon with our own changing. And the inevitable doubt—can we ever really know anything, given the fallibility of memory?

There’s a lot I’ve come to know about Alex over the dozen or so years of our acquaintance. But perhaps his most defining quality is so ingrained its almost ontological— it’s an energy. He is absolutely alive to the world. Like Thoreau, he revels in the mess of it all, wades in and sits up late into the evening chewing it over, talking, questioning, grappling, never sitting still. Thoreau’s Walden could be read as a sort of handbook to Alex’s own life.

Two works sit at the centre of Permanent good stream, some rocks, a pair of sheepskin rugs, ornately carved in marble. One bears a quote from the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce, that ‘all history is contemporary history’.

‘All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant’ Thoreau wrote. Alex has devoted himself to grasping at these miracles, to trying to pin them down and understand them, even if just for a moment as they succumb to the flux. Thoreau again: ‘as if you could kill time without injuring eternity’. In his work, as in his life, Alex doesn’t waste a thing. By Kate Britton 33


Alex Seton The Stream, or my Impeccable Search History (still), 2021 15 channel video installation, personal devices, duration variable. Image courtesy the artist

Alex Seton Get Away From It All, 2021 inkjet print on cotton rag 25 x 33 cm

Alex Seton Easy Terms, 2021 inkjet Print on cotton rag 25 x 33 cm


Alex Seton: A friend, a pond, a boat and a stream

Exhibition: Permanent Good Stream, Some Rocks, March 24 - April 2022


Alex Seton working on The Patch (Tasmanian Tuxedo)—work in progress, in his studio for his solo exhibition Permanent Good Stream, Some Rocks, Sullivan+Strumpf, 2022. Photo: Mark Pokorny

TOP: Alex Seton with works in progress in his studio for his upcoming solo Permanent Good Stream, Some Rocks, Sullivan+Strumpf, 2022. Photo: Mark Pokorny BOTTOM: Alex Seton with works in progress in his studio for his upcoming solo Permanent Good Stream, Some Rocks, Sullivan+Strumpf, 2022. Photo: Mark Pokorny

Alex Seton working on The Patch (Tasmanian Tuxedo)—work in progress, in his studio for his solo exhibition Permanent Good Stream, Some Rocks, Sullivan+Strumpf, 2022. Photo: Mark Pokorny


Angela Tiatia Responds to Henri Matisse Reflecting on the differences between her Sāmoan and Western gaze, Angela Tiatia employs reverse-ethnography to seek out thematic representation in her new work. By Emma-Kate Wilson

Exhibition: Matisse Alive, on now at the Art Gallery of NSW until April 3 2022

Angela Tiatia Exhibition view for Matisse Alive featuring Angela Tiatia, The Pearl, 2021, Art gallery of New South Wales. Photo © AGNSW, Diana Panuccio


Angela Tiatia Responds to Henri Matisse

In her video work The Pearl (2021), showing at Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of the exhibition Matisse Alive (23 October 2021–3 April 2022), Tiatia follows the footprints of the iconic painter Henri Matisse to locate the iconography of the Pacific Islands that inspired him. Together with three other women artists (Nina Chanel Abney, Sally Smart, and Robin White), Matisse Alive prefaces Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris, a retrospective dedicated to the painter showing at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (20 November 2021–13 March 2022). Matisse Alive celebrates Matisse’s artworks by bringing them in dialogue with those by contemporary artists, with a focus on colour, energy, and joy. In this exhibition, Tiatia has crafted a realm of the hyper-real, what she describes as ‘overly beautiful, hyper-beautiful, hypersurreal.’ In her new work, audiences are invited to unpack multiple layers of inspiration drawn from Matisse’s artworks and his technique while in the Pacific, drawing links between the painter’s collages and the Tivaevae art-making practices of Pacific Island women. A second layer muses on the evocative nature of Matisse’s sculpture of Venus in a Shell (1930/1951), tying it to the beauty of Pacific Island women.


Alongside this, Tiatia draws attention to the effects of climate change in the Pacific—a fundamental concern that underpins the artist’s practice, as seen in video works Tuvalu (2016) and Holding On (2015). Prior to 2017, Tiatia would often place herself in front of the camera in works like Lick (2015), Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis (2010), Heels and Walking the Wall (both 2014), and Dark Light (2017) to explore tensions between the sexualisation of Pacific women and sexism in Western and Pacific culture.

In The Fall (2017), Tiatia took on the role of director and brought together a community prompting reflections on systems of care, inclusion, and collaboration during the filming process. This approach is preserved in Narcissus (2019), The Golden Hour (2020), and Tiatia’s current work at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Drawing from surreal and saturated images across media, Tiatia’s representations inspire their own beauty. For the artist, it’s a critical examination of what will make the most visual impact. Each frame is considered as an individual shot— capturing the attention of audiences overwhelmingly presented with developing technology. Earlier this year, Tiatia was announced as recipient of the 2022 Ian Potter Moving Image Commission. Her submission Liminal Persuasions (2022) will explore tensions between the public and the private, and the real and the augmented, all of which seems to contribute to the chaotic and overwhelming feeling of the present. In the following conversation, Tiatia unpacks our relationship to a world in perpetual change, with new records constantly being set for the hottest day, wealthiest person, and fastest technology. She asks, how will our culture change as we become increasingly immune to the spectacle of contemporary life? At the time of this conversation, Sydney was entering its third month of lockdown, the weight of Covid-19 hitting Australia after 15 months of relative normality. While production for The Pearl had been affected, Matisse Alive opened in time at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Installation view, Angela Tiatia, The Pearl, 2021, single channel 4K video 16:9, colour, sound, 9 minutes, edition of 8, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Photo © AGNSW, Diana Panuccio


Angela Tiatia Responds to Henri Matisse

Emma-Kate Wilson (EKW)/ How have you been? Angela Tiatia (AT)/ Work has been busy. It’s a nice distraction, but I’ve been feeling flat from this lockdown. EKW/ I can imagine. Creativity is not one of those things you can force. It can be hard to generate work if you’re not feeling it. Do you think Covid-19 is something that will leave a mark on your works? AT/ No, I don’t think it will. I don’t want to comment on Covid-19 within the work, but it has impacted my practice. We were supposed to be filming The Pearl for the Art Gallery of New South Wales two weekends ago. I wanted to film performers and composite them inside the work. However, because the cast are young women under the age of 30 from large Pacific Island and Indigenous families, unvaccinated on top of that from lack of access to the vaccine, I thought it was too much of a risk. I didn’t want to make anyone sick. As a result, the work is being presented in two iterations. The first iteration will open on 23 October and is absent of the women. When it’s safe to film again, we will film the women as planned and insert them in the work for the second iteration. Covid-19 is impacting the logistics and the creation of the work, but I don’t want to comment on it within the work itself. EKW/ Can you tell me more about the artwork that you’ve created for the Matisse Alive exhibition? I remember you talking about how you had traced where Matisse had been through the Pacific Islands?


AT/ There are several layers to my response to Matisse’s work. The first layer responds to the physicality and methods that Matisse picked up while he was in the Pacific. I’m drawing links between Matisse’s collage techniques and the Tivaevae and tapa cloth artmaking practices of the Pacific. The Tivaevae quilt-making practice is an evolution of the Tapa cloth art-making practice of the Pacific and the quilt-making practice of European missionary wives. I see a direct connection between the Tivaevae art form and Matisse’s cut-out style developed in the islands. You can see visual linkage and the influence that enabled the development of his

cutout technique for canvases of leaves, flowers, fish, and birds. In the same way, with The Pearl, I wanted to reference the collage technique within digital technology. In addition, there is a work in Matisse’s exhibition—a small bronze sculpture Matisse made of Venus. She is in a shell, and her pose is quite different to all the Venus iconography I’ve come across in old European paintings.

“I’m drawing links between Matisse’s collage techniques and the Tivaevae and tapa cloth artmaking practices of the Pacific”.

Venus is usually represented lying down or standing. Here, she is crouched on her knees, with her arms up and bent over her head. It’s quite a provocative pose for its time, especially with the exposure of her armpits. I found myself attracted to the meanings behind Matisse’s Venus. The final layer explores the spectacular in modern-day culture. I wanted to present a world of the hyper-real; overly beautiful, hyperbeautiful, hyper-surreal. It’s to allow audiences to see something different, but also a comment on how there are visual techniques and styles that are growing in potency and for this new work, there is a simultaneous oscillation between the spectacular and the everyday object. Our cultural appetite for the spectacle has been incremental over time. I don’t see how it can be sustainable without impacting our worldviews and experiences. EKW/ Almost similar to technology and how it keeps evolving. AT/ And how it’s blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. We’re getting more used to it. EKW/ Does the environment and climate change come into the work?

Angela Tiatia at home, 2021 Photo: Kieren Cooney


Angela Tiatia Responds to Henri Matisse

AT/ Yes, but only very lightly. If the audience chooses to see it in the work, it’s definitely there. In all my works, there are elements of water. Here, there is a deluge of water. In The Pearl, I use water as a visual break, but you can certainly read into climate change and the rise of water if you wanted to. It’s not to solely speak about climate change; it’s just a very light linkage. EKW/ I guess it’s inherent to the conversation when you think about the Pacific Islands. AT/ Yes, that’s true. Unfortunately, while it should be more heavily discussed, it’s always set to the sidelines or recovered as an afterthought. EKW/ Did you find out much about Matisse and his impact on the area or his legacy? AT/ No, I didn’t really focus on his legacy. I focused on what he may have been inspired by. I’m looking at the detail of the environment that he would have been in. The way that the light flickers against the water at noon and how it shimmers, simultaneously looking at the colour of the water against the sand beneath. EKW/ What will the component of the women look like? Are they activating the space? AT/ Yes they do activate the space and I think the work is poignant with or without them. Their absence speaks volumes in terms of the difficulty of filming during Covid-19, but it also speaks about who gets access to what and who gets overlooked. In the same way, it’s equally poignant to have them in the work. They are certainly symbols of beauty, power, and empowerment.


EKW/ These are themes that I’ve seen throughout your work consistently, the sexualisation of Pacific Islander women through colonialism and stereotypes. Does that come across in this work as well?

LEFT: Angela Tiatia Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis (still), 2010 Singlechannel high-definition video 16:9, colour, no sound, 1 minute 31 seconds. RIGHT: Angela Tiatia Holding On (still), 2015 single-channel high-definition video 16:9, colour, sound, 12 minutes 12 seconds.

AT/ Again, much like the presence of water, the presence of women does touch lightly on those themes, but I’m not being explicit about it. I leave it to the audience. There will be a different reading of the work depending on a person’s worldview. You can draw meaning from the work, enjoy the visuals, or reflect on the layers of symbolism and themes in modern-day culture impacted by colonialism, stereotyping, and representation. I am leaving it open to interpretation. EKW/ Will there be elements of virtual reality or immersive aspects in the work? AT/ No, rather, it’s a huge screen—over 14 metres long by four and a half metres high. But it doesn’t require any technology to view it; it’s just like viewing a short film. EKW/ You’ve always touched on video and photography in your practice. Do you find that it helps you express your concepts? AT/ It does in terms of visual impact. I am constantly asking myself, what will create the most visual impact? In this sense, I am constantly building the work through a photographic lens and ensuring that each frame is potent enough to be extracted from the video work as

a still image. Each frame is highly constructed with the thought that hopefully, it will hold audiences from start to finish. EKW/ Thinking about photography and video, their colonial legacy is still visible today—it’s a loaded medium in both aspects. AT/ Totally. In terms of pulling apart the image, like who was behind the camera, who’s in front of the camera, was there money exchanged, what was exchanged, was there anything exchanged? What was the level of power or influence that the subject was able to have over the composition and representation of their own body? There’s so much within a single frame that can be pulled apart in terms of who had the power and who didn’t. EKW/ There’s a reflection of that throughout your works. I know you used to place yourself inside the frame. It’s that element of reclaiming the image. But now you’re the director and changing that perspective. Has it been interesting for you to go over to the other side? AT/ It has been, in terms of re-evaluating the relationships I have with those in front of the camera. Since The Fall, made in 2017, I’ll often recast the same


Angela Tiatia Responds to Henri Matisse

people over and over because I want to maintain relationships with them. EKW/ Will you be engaging some of the same people for this new work?

EKW/ I wonder how much of that is an inherent part of human nature, to want to touch. Is it something that will come back? Does this new work stem from a theory that you’ve worked on before, or what is the inspiration for it?

AT/ Yes, alongside a couple of new faces. EKW/ Is this a reflection of your community? AT/ I think it’s a reflection of community and checking in with each other. Each new work is an opportunity to spend time with one another. EKW/ Congratulations on the 2022 Ian Potter Moving Image Commission! Is Liminal Persuasion still in the development phase?

“Where audiences are drawn into a surface level of beauty and aesthetics, but then simultaneously punching outwards with something strange or uncomfortable or uneasy within the image.”

AT/ I am still developing that thinking space, but it’s hopefully going to be very layered. EKW/ Will it be similar to the last few works you’ve done? With you as the director and a group of people? AT/ Well, now, I’ll have to be careful about the number of people involved, because we’re still in the times of Covid-19. I have to find my way around that. I was just thinking about works like Narcissus and The Fall, where there were so many people on set, how that kind of work would be so difficult to make now. EKW/ It makes you reflect on the opportunities we’ve had and the things we’ve been able to do—realising that nothing is set anymore. It’s so strange, we took our plans for granted. It makes you reassess things.


AT/ The strangeness of it all! How is Covid-19 going to impact our ease with being in proximity with each other, for example. Touching on how you said we take things for granted, like being able to kiss people on the cheek and hug them. Will this impact us in the future? Will we keep one another at arm’s length, until the next generation forgets all about it and eases back into hugging someone?

AT/ I think it’s going to be a mash-up of everything I’ve learned and picked up from the last ten years of being in Australia. One of the main ways that I’ll be constructing this work is the concept of creating images or an image that is of slight discomfort. Although what may be presented on the surface is something relaxing or beautiful, and unassuming in a way. One of the filtration devices that I have within my art practice, in terms of how an image is constructed, is the question, ‘Is this image going to draw the audience member in?’ Where audiences are drawn into a surface level of beauty and aesthetics, but then simultaneously punching outwards with something strange or uncomfortable or uneasy within the image. Contextually, I’m always intrigued by social media and seeing images and interactions from all around the world that appear to be both real and constructed. EKW/ It is curious to think about the impact of social media, especially in art. I think it can be such a great tool to bring people together. But there is just so much that you’re constantly questioning what you see. It’s hard to

take anything at face value. But when you think about it layered within art, where you are constantly questioning what you see, it’s all about playing with perception. AT/ Exactly. And everything is constructed. EKW/ Are you working on anything else at the moment? AT/ I’m working on another project for 2023. EKW/ It’s amazing to me, thinking about 2022/2023. It’s hard to imagine that time. AT/ It feels unreal. Scientists are saying that by 2025, we would have reached a 1.5-degree rise in temperature, so when I think about 2022 and 2023, it fills me with terror that we are approaching 2025 and the implications of that. There’s a strong domino effect in terms of food security, migration, education, and health. Everything is going to start amping up from poor management. EKW/ I’ve really noticed in the last few years the level of natural disasters and how much destruction they cause. The year 2025 doesn’t seem too far away to me; just look at what happened in New York recently. AT/ It is amping up, but then at the same time, we are refusing to look at it. And that’s what I’m trying to say when I describe the growth or the evolution of work, or visual culture. There’s an amping up all the time. EKW/ You just become a bit more immune to it. AT/ That’s the word. As things become more terrifying, more unreal, more sci-fi, more spectacular, and more fantastical. But we’re also becoming immune to it. What will be the price for this impact? I am aware that the reason a lot of us refuse to face these issues head-on is because it is depressing and is anxiety-inducing, but in the same way, how can we not look at it? From my position, it’s frustrating how it has fallen on individuals and communities to generate the conversation like it’s something politicians don’t want to discuss.

“I don’t feel the pressure to add social activism as an additional layer within my works, but I do feel the pressure of making works that mean something. They must always mean something.” EKW/ Artists have taken on the role of social activists. Does that add to the pressure of your own practice and creating new works? AT/ Artists have always taken on the role of social activists—it’s either taken on very consciously or an outcome of responding to the relevant and important themes of their times. I don’t feel the pressure to add social activism as an additional layer within my works, but I do feel the pressure of making works that mean something. They must always mean something. EKW/ As an outsider looking at your career, the works appear effortless, with a natural flow to them. You can see them building on each other. They’ve always been strong—the concepts, imagery, and the aesthetic. AT/ To make work that feels effortless takes a lot of effort. There are always complications with each new work. For example The Pearl was largely made during Covid-19 lockdowns, which spun up logistical and production challenges. I find the process of making anything of this scale seems to oscillate between moments of deep joy and moments of sheer terror! EKW/ It sounds like if everything goes according to plan, and Sydney can open by then, it would be the perfect work to return to. AT/ I think so too. I really wanted the work to be beautiful, joyful, and spectacular. —[O] Excerpt from Ocula



Artist Naminapu Maymuru-White at Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre in Yirrkala, 2021. Image courtesy the artist, Buku Larrŋgay-Mulka and the NGV, Melbourne. Photo: Leicolhn McKellar

Naminapu Maymuru-White: MilŊiyawuy—The River of Heaven and Earth Naminapu Maymuru-White talks to Liz Nowell about art, connection to culture and family and her upcoming exhibition at Sullivan+Strumpf. By Liz Nowell

Exhibition: MilŊiyawuy—The River of Heaven and Earth, February 3 - March 12 2022




Naminapu Maymuru-White: MilŊ iyawuy—The River of Heaven and Earth

(Naminapu Maymuru-White) NMW/ Yeah. You don’t smoke, eh?

design of work to carry on. So that in the future, you might teach your own children.’ That’s what he said.

(Liz Nowell) LN/ I used to.

So anyway, before he went, I started thinking about doing that. Even though it was hard because of the kids. But anyway, I love my art.

NMW/ Well, you sit on this end. LN/ No, no, that’s all right. I like it. NMW/ No. LN/ Why? NMW/ If you sit there, you’ll start smoking again. LN/ Yeah. That’s very thoughtful of you. Thank you. NMW/ So how am I supposed to start up to just talk about? LN/ Well, you can say whatever you want. I can ask you questions. I was going to ask you some questions maybe about how long you’ve been making art for and how did you become an artist? A good question? NMW/ Well, I know how I started thinking about how to become an artist. Because before I used to work as a teacher training. I started off at Homeland. I used to come in for training. But I used to spend my time with my father, like coming back from school, sitting down with him, talking to him, asking questions, ‘why?’. He used to tell me stories and I became very interested. Even though some of my family, my brothers and sisters, they used to do art. But now it seems like everyone’s not there. So, I kept thinking about old man’s words. Because the last exhibition, I went for his exhibition, from Melbourne to Canberra, that’s where he had his last exhibition, I think. So, he said to me, ‘There’s only two of you [siblings], that I’m happy for you to continue our clan

LN/ I assume you must’ve felt a real sense of responsibility to carry on that clan design because your old man trusted you to do that. So, it’s kind of a big cultural responsibility, big family responsibility. NMW/ Yes. Yes. LN/ Even if it’s hard sometimes. NMW/ And it’s really, really important to my life. Because my children have been seeing me doing a lot of artwork. I’ve been to a couple of exhibitions, like one in Darwin, Sydney, maybe two in Sydney. I can’t remember. And now the kids are grownups. Not kids anymore. My two boys and my daughter, they help me a lot, all carrying things for me. And I tell them, ‘You don’t have to just sit here and watch. You’ve seen me do this. So how about it?’. LN/ Yeah. That’s how you learn, isn’t it? And that’s how you teach. It sounds like you’re a natural born teacher, both in education and in art—in culture. Are you teaching your children your clan design as well? NMW/ Yes. Because it’s like whenever you go, there’s no one else to pass on whatever you were given. They would say, ‘No, we don’t know how to do that’. And they’ve lost their identity, their culture, and everything, and some kids are like that—those who don’t spend time with their parents, if someone else is trying to teach them, they have more respect towards what we are doing for them.

Naminapu Maymuru-White in her studio, 2021. Image courtesy the artist and Buku Larrŋgay Mulka. Photo: David Wickens


Naminapu Maymuru-White: MilŊ iyawuy—The River of Heaven and Earth

LN/ Yeah. And are they doing their own work now or they’re still painting with you? NMW/ My youngest son, Patrick White. He got very, very sick. So even though I was spending time with him, when we stayed in Darwin, they were still sending me some stuff to work on my art, which kept me going and to support me. And when we came back, I had to fly first to my uncle’s funeral then he flew over later. And when we both went back, he started doing exercise and he did the first art on screen (screenprint) about the Milky Way. I got surprised when I saw that. LN/ It sounds as though you’ve been making art for a long time, and you’ve got this show coming up. Do you aspire to be a kind-of famous artist? I mean, you kind of already are a star—or you just want to paint because you want to? NMW/ I don’t want to be famous, I hate that word. I just want to carry on that work that I’ve been asked to carry on, pass it over. And I’m not a person who I can tell people what to do, but I’m proud that my old man gave me permission to work with my children. LN/ So, it was just you and one other sibling that your father passed that down to? Your clan design? NMW/ My sister’s gone. Because we were the last two out of the family that carried it on. My eldest brother Baluka, he’s an old man now but some of his children, boys, can do art, but are not really keen because of what other things are happening around.


LN/ Yeah, I mean, that’s a big responsibility on you to be passing that on, on your own.

“And the river of stars, Milky Way, represents what you see on the land. And it’s what you can see in your spirit that you are traveling through that river of stars.” NMW/ I know. LN/ So, did your father paint the Milky Way too? NMW/ Yes. LN/ And you teach your kids the Milky Way? NMW/ I didn’t exactly copy what he did, but I had another idea. My vision, what I see, is for the land, I can see a different way of seeing things through Milky Way. Milky Way, I see it and I interpret that. In the Milky Way there was a river of Wayawu. A Homeland, a river of Wayawu. And people lived there a long time ago. The river relates to the land and what I interpret is the land and up in the sky. LN/ Like a mirror? NMW/ Yes. LN/ The river is like the Milky Way, reflected in the sky? Is that how you mean? NMW/ No. The river runs through the land, right? LN/ Yeah.

Installation view of Naminapu Maymuru-White, Mil ŋiyawuy—The River of Heaven and Earth, 2022 Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney. Image courtesy the artist and Buku Larrŋgay Mulka. Photo: Mark Pokorny

Naminapu Maymuru-White Mil ŋiyawuy 7 (detail), 2021 Larrakitj, earth pigment on wood 211 x 20 cm Image courtesy the artist and Buku Larrŋgay Mulka. Photo: Mark Pokorny


Naminapu Maymuru-White: MilŊ iyawuy—The River of Heaven and Earth


Naminapu Maymuru-White in interview for ‘Naminapu Maymuru-White | Bark Ladies: Eleven Artists from Yirrkala’ Vimeo video (still), NGV, Melbourne, 4 February 2022

NMW/ And the river of stars, Milky Way, represents what you see on the land. And it’s what you can see in your spirit, that you are traveling through that river of stars. The stars represent all the people, spirits taking you up. And the river itself, up there and here, also represents the circle of the string. Especially the string called a Burrkun. It belongs to Maŋgalili people. I did a work before on a big bark and someone else brought it to their gallery but now I’m doing another one. When I start on that, I think about the journey now, the land itself. The land, how you relate to the land. And then on the land, the people living. And when they hunt there and everything, when time comes, that river turns itself, to interpret itself. But it’s a spiritual river and it takes you through that river. And also, when I said Burrkun, the special string, we do Buŋgul (ceremonial dance) and singing, we stretch that long string, put it on our shoulder and circle around the camp, crying out as a night bird. That night bird is a messenger, it cries out, letting people know that the spirit is travelling, the spirit of that person. It’s traveling. To let people know. It’s a special Buŋgul that we do. And the next day, the spirit travels, but it also travels while we do the Buŋgul dance. It travels. LN/ From the river up into the Milky Way or from the land into the Milky Way? NMW/ Yes. All. LN/ Along the string? NMW/ That string represents the river now. Because what we believe, what I was told about the Milky Way. But when I did my first painting, the new version of it, I saw the string going around, circling. And then it represents the river, the river that flows. And then it goes right up. And the stars. They represent the spirit of the

“My vision, what I see, is for the land, I can see a different way of seeing things through Milky Way.” people up there already. LN/ Oh, I’ll never be able to look at the Milky Way the same. NMW/ And if you’re very, very sick you can lie down and watch. There is a special healing in them when you look. But when you go to my Homeland, that’s the best place you can have a close look. LN/ Yeah. Because no city lights out there on Country, on the Homeland. NMW/ And all the stars, they change into animals as well, always changing. One day I went to Merrki’s mother’s funeral with Will Stubbs’ wife’s mum. And we were out there, and we were having dinner and supper, roundabout, as the sun dropped to become early night, about 8:00pm. We were all sitting near the campfire telling stories and something caught my eye. And I looked at it. I looked at it and then I turned around and said, ‘Everyone look, look up, that star is formed into itself like a crocodile.’ The stars changed into a crocodile. The tail was pointing right back at Djarrakpi, and the head was pointing to that place where the old lady’s family lives, Dhanaya and Bawaka. So I had a really, really good look. Coming back I did this really nice painting of that. Not imagining now, just by looking at it. Like



Installation view of Bark Ladies: Eleven Artists from Yirrkala from 17 December 2021 to 25 April 2022 at NGV International, Melbourne, featuring Naminapu Maymuru-White, Ri ŋgitjmi gapu, 2021, decal installation Federation Court, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and Buku Larrŋgay Mulka. Photo: Tom Ross



Naminapu Maymuru-White: MilŊ iyawuy—The River of Heaven and Earth

taking a picture of it. I looked at it, I saw it, all those stars shaped into a crocodile, the river of the Milky Way. The tail pointing back at home, the head pointing to where we were.

“When I see things before I do anything, I see a vision.”

So, I sat down and I wrote a story about it, how we relate. How people are related, how the song lines are related, everyone. So, when I see things before I do anything—I see a vision. LN/ Before you paint? You have a vision before you start painting? NMW/ I don’t imagine things. LN/ No, they’re there. NMW/ Yeah. As us Yolŋu people say, the spirit is always with you. You can see the spirit, not bad spirits, but good spirits. Like your ancestor’s spirit, your father’s spirit, your grandfather watching over you, what you’re doing. Guiding you, leading you, teaching you as well. This is true. LN/ That’s true. NMW/ And it happens too. So, I’m really proud with myself. NMW/ For being an artist. I still think about my father’s words, what he said to me.

Exhibition: MilŊiyawuy—The River of Heaven and Earth, February 3 - March 12 2022


Naminapu Maymuru-White Mil ŋiyawuy 7 (detail), 2022 earth pigment on stringy bark (eucalyptus sp.) approximately 220 x 270 cm dimensions variable (per panel). Photo: mark Pokorny



Portrait of artist eX de Medici, 2020. Photo: Gary Grealy

In the studio

eX de Medici The Proust Questionnaire eX de Medici answers the same 35 questions Proust originally answered in 1890

1. WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF PERFECT HAPPINESS? An atheist world. 2. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST FEAR? Insane heads of state and their MAGA-hat-wearing minions. 3. WHAT IS THE TRAIT YOU MOST DEPLORE IN YOURSELF? Over enthusiasm.

14. WHICH WORDS OR PHRASES DO YOU MOST OVERUSE? Fuckstik. Patach (Klingon: coward). 15. WHAT OR WHO IS THE GREATEST LOVE OF YOUR LIFE? Headdie, my deceased Staffordshire Terrier. 16. WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU HAPPIEST? Always here, always now.





6. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST EXTRAVAGANCE? Thought crime. 7. WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT STATE OF MIND? Restless. Persistent. 8. WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST OVERRATED VIRTUE? Inherent power. 9. ON WHAT OCCASION DO YOU LIE? When I say I love musicals and David Lynch. 10. WHAT DO YOU MOST DISLIKE ABOUT YOUR APPEARANCE? Not princessy enough. 11. WHICH LIVING PERSON DO YOU MOST DESPISE? Rio Tinto. A corporation that has ‘international legal personhood’. 12. WHAT IS THE QUALITY YOU MOST LIKE IN A MAN? Repairing things. 13. WHAT IS THE QUALITY YOU MOST LIKE IN A WOMAN? Mindreading.



In the studio: eX de Medici eX De Medici Root and Branch, 2016 watercolour and white gouache on paper 100 x 115 cm Photo: Nicholas White

27. WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS? Roberto Calasso, Ishmael Kadare. 28. WHO IS YOUR HERO OF FICTION? Spock and his sister Michael Burnham. 29. WHICH HISTORICAL FIGURE DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY WITH? Burning witch sisters. 30. WHO ARE YOUR HEROES IN REAL LIFE? Greg Combet. Jacquie Katona. 31. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE NAMES? Star and Trek. 32. WHAT IS IT THAT YOU MOST DISLIKE? Indolence. Resentment. 33. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST REGRET? No regrets. 34. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO DIE? Awake. 35. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO? Family motto: Here we are at the front of time, what is the best way forward?

Exhibition: eX de Medici, May 26 - June 11 2022




eX de Medici Root and Branch, 2016 watercolour, gouache on paper 100 x 115 cm. Purchased with funds provided by Paul & Valeria Ainsworth Charitable Foundation, Kathleen Buchan and May Bequest Fund and the Australian Prints, Drawings and Watercolours Benefactors’ Fund 2017.



Seth Birchall with works in progress for his upcoming solo The Garden is Watered, 2022 Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney. Photo: Leyla Stevens

At home with:

Seth Birchall

AFTER THE EXCERCISE, EVERYTHING’S GRAVY. Being an artist for as long as I have and having to work... mainly work… and be an artist on the side, have the arts as the side thing, if that makes sense you have other things than the art. Now, it’s flipped around. Suddenly, I don’t have a thing I do outside of art. I go riding though. The last trip would’ve been about 10 days ago. My brother and I (I have a twin brother), we caught a train—the 6:15 out of central. AM. Which means I get on the 5:47am out of Summer Hill. We caught the train up to Wyong, near the Central Coast. We ride west of Wyong. You head up a hill and then as soon as you reach the’s very quick out of Wyoming. Eventually, you hit Wyoming Creek, and then up the Yarramalong Valley, heading Northwest. You have a lot of hobby farms, but really nice properties. We head west, go inland. Northwest, really. Directly from the train station, away from the beach side of things or Southern Hunter Valley. You do sort of recall

the rolling hills before you’re into national park, fire trails and that sort of thing. Before long, more farms, more bush before you hit a main road. It leads to Laguna, which is a little locality out there. Then another national park. It’s 113kms, the whole thing. This time, it took 6 hours. That’s around 18km an hour. We still stop for lunch and lots of breaks. The maximum speed we would go is 60km/h on the descent, about 15km from the end, which only takes a minute and a half to ride down. At that stage, you just want to sit there for a minute because you’ve pedaled so far. It’s a really good opportunity to have a yak with my brother, too. For 10 hours. Maybe at the end, it’s a bit like ‘Oh, I’ve talked enough’. Mostly though, it’s talking and riding. And we’re kind of on the same page, fitnesswise. Every ride you go through, you kind of ride out of the station and you think, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do this. Do it’. Then there’s that first feeling of maybe not being as fit as I think I am. The watch says we’re only 3km in, we’ve got another 110 to go, I wonder if he’s feeling the same way. And then yeah, he’ll sort of look over and he’s like, oh, what are we doing? You have that look. So,


At home with: Seth Birchall

you kind of bounce off each of other. I do not think, in any way, I would be able to do that by myself. In my mind, making art then sitting on the couch or on the computer all day, is not what I want to do. It’s not my ideal sort of scenario. The effect of riding is that as soon as you are in that space, all that other stuff falls into perspective. Or maybe you even forget about it. Yeah. Without calling it meditation, I’ve always used exercise as a stabilizer, I guess. I think I’ve got an eight-day period. If I don’t exercise in eight days…it’s a chemistry thing. Sometimes I get to that point, and think ‘what is wrong?’ It’s this itchy head


Seth’s Itinerary. Google Maps, November 2021.

thing, where I just can’t seem to... and the further out it gets, the harder it is to come back in. I try not to let it get that far. Riding to the studio is great, I feel like after the exercise, everything’s gravy, if that makes sense. There are beautiful moments that feed into the art, mental images. It’s such a cumulative thing because there are so many of those moments. On another trip, before my brother had his first child. Before the first grandchild was born—so six, seven years ago—we went way down south, and I took a lot

of photos and then made a lot of watercolors out of that trip. And then, as a result, I bounced back into the paintings—this was around 2015–16. I still have some of the watercolors. In one, I would’ve been heading into town to get some beers on a grocery run in the morning, dividing up the beers among the four of our panniers. The camp spot that night was next to a little river. I remember the beers we picked up that morning because they were on the back of the bike all day; they were quite warm. I remember tying them in a bag and sitting them in the creek. Not for long enough, but enough to get them cool. It was this snowy river. This snowy little creek. I made a little painting of that. I think you’d have to know it’s a bag of beers, it’s kind of abstract.

Seth Birchall Work in progress (detail), 2022 oil on canvas 188 x 183cm Photo: Leyla Stevens

I think that’s the idea, that it’s all supposed to feed back into the work. I’m not trying to find images, but colour combinations—and the images that I source for my work always remind me of something, of somewhere.

Exhibition: Seth Birchall, April 28 - May 14 2022




Sydney Ball: Colour and Form: Works on paper from the Estate 1965-2017 By Joanna Strumpf

Sydney Ball is widely considered a pioneer in Australian Abstraction and his long and impressive career has had a formidable impact on Australian art. Definitively a colourist, Ball spent his formative years living and studying in New York at the Art Students League under Theodoros Stamos, one of the ‘irascible eighteen’, which also included Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Ball’s oeuvre is expansive and diverse, with each series marked by a monumental and dynamic change. All, however, share the prerogative to investigate the possibilities of colour and form; from the lyrical abstraction that defines his Stain paintings to the architectonic coloured forms of his famed Modular works. Ball continued to ambitiously push the limits of his own practice to greater heights while also having significant relevance as a contemporary Australian artist. This exhibition investigates Ball’s great love of paper and includes rare works from the 1960s and 70s—including early drawings from his Canto series and prints from both his Persian and Stain series. The exhibition will also feature more recent works which informed Ball’s iconic Infinex series begun in 2010. These pivotal works spanning the artist’s career are statements of pure colour and form, shown for the very first time at Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney in 2022.

Exhibition: Colour and Form: Works on paper from the Estate 1965-2017, May 5 - May 21 2022 at Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney


Artist Sydney Ball at Sullivan+Strumpf, 2016 Photo: Mark Pokorny



Sydney Ball: Colour and Form, Works on paper from the Estate 1965-2017

Sydney Ball Lyris, 2014 acrylic on handmade paper 87.5 x 87.5 cm (framed)


Ngapulara Ngarngarnyi Wirra (Our Family Tree) Tracker Data Project Adam Goodes, Angie Abdilla & Baden Pailthorpe MOD, University of South Australia, Adelaide, February-November 2022 What is the link between ancient Aboriginal knowledge systems, biometric data, the direction of the wind, satellite surveillance, AI and a very old sacred wirra (tree) deep in Adnyamathanha Country?

The link runs through Adam Goodes and his deep ancestral connections. For the past four years, we, Adam Goodes, Angie Abdilla and Baden Pailthorpe, have been slowly and consciously working with Adnyamathana Custodians and Yarta (Country) in an effort to navigate some of the most complex questions of our time.


“Every AFL game Adam Goodes played, his body was tracked 10 times per second via a global network of satellites and a small device on his back.” Whilst this surveillance is standard for all AFL players, the origins of Marngrook, its requirement to have a spatial consciousness spanning 360 degrees and the historical and ongoing surveillance of Aboriginal people in Australia means that the tracking of Aboriginal footballers has a vexed cultural and political significance. During the most intense phase of racism which Adam endured, he escaped the AFL season and the intense scrutiny of the media to return to his Adnyamathana

Yarta. While there, he was called by an ancient ancestral wirra (red river gum tree, pronounced ‘widda’). The entanglement of Adam’s biometric data within the metaphysics of Aboriginal knowledge systems has remained invisible, until now. Adam’s phenomenal spatial awareness and his kinship connections are linked to and rooted in an alternate cultural and scientific paradigm. Multiple traces of these patterns were recorded in his data when he played yet remained invisible due to the Western epistemology of sport science. This is not new or unique to sport—as Bruce Pascoe points out, the ancient Greeks saw the space between stars in the night sky as empty, whereas Aboriginal peoples’ observations of the night skies reveal celestial articulations which are full of life and an alternate philosophy of science born from the dark spaces between stars. The key difference between Western and Aboriginal peoples’ paradigms is that the latter is centred by deep and complex relational interconnections, rooted by Country (earth, waterways and skies combined) and kinship systems. The Tracker Data Project exhibition, at the Museum of Discovery (MOD.), reveals the cultural knowledges within Adam’s AFL data through the Adnyamathanha kinship system—a system based on two moieties with specific characteristics: Ararru (North Wind) and Mathari (South Wind). Adam belongs to the Ararru moiety.

In order to symbolically return Adam’s AFL data to Country, he chose (and was chosen by) a significant wirra more than 500 years old, on Adnyamathanha Yarta. Both Adam’s AFL data and our 3D scan of the wirra have a three-dimensional form called a point cloud, not dissimilar to stars in space. Within our artwork, Ngapulara Ngarngarnyi Wirra (Our Family Tree), Adam’s data sits underneath and around the wirra. They nourish each other. Both are animated by two simulations based on the characteristics of Ararru and Mathari winds, representing the basis of the Adnyamathanha kinship system. The duality of these two winds connects and balances everything for Adnyamathanha people: physical, spirit and human worlds combined. Within the artwork’s installation, the Ararru and Mathari winds swirl through both the physical space and through the digital space of Adam’s data and the wirra. Together, they create a third liminal space that is completed through the embodied experience as you enter the wirra. The sound of the wind and the physical form of the wirra were recorded on Adnyamathanha Country under the guidance of Traditional Custodians, Aunty Glenise Coulthard AM and Uncle Kingsley Coulthard. Inside the wirra, Adnyamathanha Custodian Uncle Terrence Coulthard tells the Yura Muda (creation story) of Ikara (Wilpena Pound) in Yura Ngawarla, the Adnyamathanha language, with aerial footage of

Adnyamathanha Yarta (country) playing on two screens. The voice of Adam Goodes echoes the Muda in Yura Ngawarla. We used machine learning to translate the Adnyamathanha creation story into the sound of the Ararru (North) and Mathari (South) winds by programming their characteristics into an algorithm. This creates a sonic connection between the interrelationship of Country and kinship systems that can be felt with your body throughout the space. In an Aboriginal worldview, trees represent an important connection between land, water and sky—reaching deep into the earth channelling water as they reach up into the air, connecting the elements and spaces between both. The wirra in this artwork is more than 500 years old, it connects not only earth, water and sky, but also past, present and future. It was a seedling hundreds of years before Arthur Phillip, Captain of the First Fleet, was even born.

TOP: Adam Goodes, Angie Abdilla, Baden Pailthorpe Ngapulara Ngarngarnyi Wirra (Our Family Tree) (detail), 2022 Tracker Data Project Immersive installation, 2 x 4K video projections with surround sound (exterior space), and 2 x HD videos with stereo sound, wall text (interior space) Dimensions variable.


Ngapulara Ngarngarnyi Wirra (Our Family Tree)

LEFT (L-R): Adam Goodes, Angie Abdilla and Baden Pailthorpe on Country, 2021. Photo: James Alberts RIGHT: Exhibition view, Invisibility, Museum of Discovery (MOD), Adelaide, featuring Adam Goodes, Angie Abdilla, Baden Pailthorpe, Ngapulara Ngarngarnyi Wirra (Our Family Tree), 2022, Tracker Data Project, immersive installation, 2 x 4K video projections with surround sound (exterior space), 2 x HD videos with stereo sound, wall text (interior space), dimensions variable.

As the first missionaries arrived violently on Adnyamathanha Country (Flinders Ranges, South Australia) this wirra was already a massive, majestic, fully mature giant. As a silent witness to so much history, it forms a physical connection to Adam’s Adnyamathanha ancestors who lived the old ways next to this wirra until approximately 1930. Today, it still stands tall as a symbol of Adnyamathanha resilience. This artwork shows the interconnection and interrelationship of Country and kinship systems developed over millennia. It invites you to experience Adnyamathanha Culture with your body, it asks you to listen to the lyrical beauty of Adnyamathanha Ngawarla (language) and the sound of the wind, and it asks you to consider the sophistication of Aboriginal traditional knowledge systems.

ADAM GOODES, ANGIE ABDILLA & BADEN PAILTHORPE WOULD LIKE TO THANK: The Adnyamathanha Yarta, Adnyamathanha Elders and ngarngarnyi (families) for sharing, teaching and providing guidance with the Yura Muda and Yura Ngwarla.


In particular: Aunty Glenise Coulthard AM (Arraru), Uncle Terrence Coulthard (Mathari), Uncle Kinglsey Coulthard (Mathari), Kristian Coulthard (Arraru), Umeewarra Media Radio Station, Port Augusta

Exhibition: Ngapulara Ngarngarnyi Wirra (Our Family Tree), February - November 2022, MOD, Adelaide


Alex Seton: A History of Forgetting TWEED REGIONAL GALLERY & MARGARET OLLEY ART CENTRE NSW, FEBRUARY 11 - APRIL 17, 2022. Alex Seton’s new exhibition at Tweed Regional Gallery continues the artist’s on-going interrogation of the unreliability of memory.

Installation view of Alex Seton’s, The Ghost of Wombeyan (A History of Forgetting), 2019-20, Wombeyan marble, 110 x 110 x 226 cm Sullivan+Strumpf, 2020. Photo: Mark Pokorny

A History of Forgetting continues Alex Seton’s reflections on the unreliability of memory and histories, both personal and collective. For the artist, to live in Australia is to be aware of the forgotten chapters in our history books. Grounded in memories of his own childhood growing up in rural New South Wales, the exhibition is a deeply personal elegy on the place of his upbringing near the Wombeyan Caves and Quarry, grappling with the effects of the passage of time and the importance of bringing our stories to the fore as acts of remembrance.

In another feature work, History is Buried in My Backyard, 2020, Seton recreates an unreliable childhood memory of unearthing a message in a bottle in a billabong in Wombeyan. The surface pattern of fizzing bubbles on the old cordial bottle is recreated painstakingly by carving robot as a large wall relief in old panels of recycled Wombeyan marble that sparkle like an old 80s computer screen. This is memory of a message never read, blended through time, repurposed in recollection and material.

A History of Forgetting brings together poignant and often humorous works from the last three years of Seton’s practice, including photographs, video installations, new marble carvings and a musical composition. One of the feature pieces is a draped figure handcarved in Wombeyan marble, lying in repose. Titled The Ghost of Wombeyan - A History of Forgetting, 2020, the work acts as requiem to the landscape and its many stories, now enveloped by the past. Carefully considered photographs accompany the figure, detailing the remnants of the old quarry walls that are covered in new growth and the fading graffiti of its workers, the raw blocks scarred by bushfire and the blank tombstones of a local graveyard.

Exhibition: A History of Forgetting, February 11 - April 17, 2022, Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre NSW.


Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre, 2021. Photo: David Sandison

Last Word: with Susi Muddiman OAM

Susi Muddiman, Director of the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre chats OAMs, bubbles and regional art galleries.


By Alex Pedley

Susi Muddiman Director of Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre, 2021. Photo: TRGMOAC, 2021

(Alex Pedley) AP/ SUSI, A SIMPLE QUESTION FIRST: ONE ADJECTIVE TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF. (Susi Muddiman) SM/ Just one word??! But I’m not known for my brevity! Perhaps ‘bubbly’ might be appropriate? I do love bubbles, particularly the drinkable ones. I’ve recently had to complete that Myers Briggs Type Indicator thing, and I was definitely classified as an extrovert. AP/ WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST NON-CAREER ACHIEVEMENT OF THE LAST TWO YEARS? TWO DAYS? SM/ Two years – that would be clearing out and organising the Tupperware cupboard. Two days – Two things: I successfully baked a Hummingbird cake, and I went to a fun knitting class last night with artists and made (with very patient guidance from the fabulous tutors) an inelegant, yet highly festive, Christmas stocking, complete with a pompom. Such fun. There was mulled wine involved and hilarious creative ladies. AP/ ARE YOU FANCIER NOW THAT YOU HAVE AN OAM AT THE END OF YOUR NAME? ARE THERE SPECIAL EVENTS FOR OAM-ERS—AND DO YOU GET PLUS ONES?

SM/ Well, the lovely little pin you get is pretty fancy. To be honest (and I hope I don’t get myself in any trouble for saying this), I’d wear it more if there were two of them and I could wear them as earrings! The middling size medal is attached to a pretty ribbon, but it’s a bit on the obvious side for my outfits, and the large one is like an Olympic medal and very grand and very gold. It’s not really what could be referred to as a delicate accessory. My friends all endearingly regarded me as somewhat of a princess before ‘the pin’, so I don’t think it’s that different now. No, there’s not any special events that I’m aware of. If there are, I can’t say I’ve been invited. And I’m still searching for the right plus-one... and waiting for the upgrade to Business Class… AP/ WHAT MOMENT HAS MOST EXHILARATED YOU AND WHAT MOMENT HAS MOST HUMBLED YOU IN A DISTINGUISHED CAREER DEDICATED TO THE ARTS? SM/ The most exhilarated would be getting the go-ahead to proceed with the capital development for the Margaret Olley Art Centre at the Tweed. Such an exciting and daunting project to work on. Such an honour.


Last Word: with Susi Muddiman OAM

As for the most humbling moment—that would be receiving the call while I was in Paris on holiday about being nominated for the OAM. I was supposed to keep it secret for a few weeks, but, well… I was in Paris with artist friends, so how could I possibly contain myself? There may have been some celebrations. And my dad was so proud. AP/ WHAT DOES THE REGIONAL GALLERY LANDSCAPE LOOK LIKE RIGHT NOW IN NEW SOUTH WALES, OR FURTHER AFIELD, FOR THOSE UNACQUAINTED? HOW HAVE THE LAST TWO YEARS CHANGED THINGS DO YOU THINK? SM/ I am an unabashed groupie of regional galleries and the incredibly hard-working staff teams of each of them, so it’s no surprise that I’m going to say that there’s a smorgasbord of incredible work being done in the regions. As a Board member of Museums and Galleries New South Wales (MGNSW), I am so lucky to be well versed in what’s happening in the regions, and I get to read a lot of grant applications.


Regional galleries so often have incredible collections— treasure troves of beautiful and significant artworks that have made their way into collections via philanthropy or direct acquisition by talented directors and curators. I would absolutely recommend regional galleries to the uninitiated as so often the exhibitions will be incredible touring shows, or exhibitions which represent that region through the visual artists of the area or further afield. Artists chronicle the times we live in—or present their view of a landscape or things we tend to take for granted, so galleries are excellent venues to explore other interpretations. I’ve been around for a while and I’m ever surprised by the clever curation of exhibitions and gallery programs that do so much to inject education and public programming into communities.

Galleries are all about engagement and I can pretty much guarantee there will be something on in a regional gallery near you that will expand your thinking or invite or entice you to think differently about a subject. You’re bound to learn something—or be enthralled by the talents of artists. In NSW alone, there are quite a few new regional galleries or new building developments to explore. I can’t wait to get out and about again and see them myself! Recently opened, Ngununggula Southern Highlands Regional Gallery, Retford Park, is most definitely on my list. It has an outstanding program and sensational line up of exhibitions. It’s a credit to all involved. I literally cannot wait to get to that one! Also on the list is the new gallery in Mudgee Arts Precinct and the brand-new upgrade of the Orange Regional Gallery which has just officially re-opened. Orange has consistently had a terrific program. I really need to take some holidays and do a road trip! I know from personal experience how much hard work is involved in capital developments, particularly in local government contexts. I take my hat off to each of these three new developments, and all the others I haven’t mentioned here. Local governments can do so much for regional and cultural tourism through their support of regional galleries and museums. With the right support this can achieve amazing results for economic development for the region. I think local government has definitely realised this more and more over the last 15 years or so, and the support of the State Government to help resource the development and presentation of quality programming can’t be underestimated either. In the last couple of years, we’ve certainly seen some changes! Personally, I think regional galleries are more distanced than ever before as travel has

Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre, 2021. Photo: Kate Holmes


Last Word: with Susi Muddiman OAM

been so restricted and there’s no doubt that local governments have been relied upon more and more, with no extra resources to assist regional communities. To say that regional galleries are resilient is a major understatement—it’s been so helpful to have that collegiate support of the sector. And again, it’s been incredible to see how the dedicated staff of galleries and museums have found or invented new ways to connect with their audiences and the artistic community. I know that online programming has been a challenge for some regions, but there has been so much quality programming appearing online—I know I was inspired. The sector’s IMAGinE Awards presented through MGNSW showcased just a snippet of what’s been happening in the sector. AP/ WHAT IS IN STORE FOR TWEED REGIONAL GALLERY & MARGARET OLLEY ART CENTRE NEXT YEAR THAT YOU ARE MOST EXCITED ABOUT? AFTER ALEX SETON’S SHOW, OF COURSE! SM/ Well of course Alex’s show A History of Forgetting is number 1! It just happens to be the first exhibition on the program for 2022 as well! We are all looking forward to it.


On until late February in the Margaret Olley Art Centre (MOAC) is At Home: Margaret Olley and Ben Quilty, which, although I’m a little biased, is an excellent exhibition which tells the story of mentorship, art and friendship between these two artists. It’s a collection of

recent still life paintings by Ben alongside still lifes and interiors by Olley from the latter half of her extraordinary career. Later in the year, there’s a huge new show in the MOAC all about flowers. We’ve got Pattern & Print coming in late April, showcasing the fashion house of Easton Pearson. There’s the exhibition from the graduate artist in residence program, offered in partnership with the National Art School and awarded in 2020 to artist Arash Chehelnabi, as well as our invited resident artist Tamara Dean. Back in 2014, Alex was our inaugural artist in the Nancy Fairfax Artist in Residence Studio. We’ll also have a new exhibition from our collection, a show by a graduate of the Byron School of Art (BSA) via our partnership with that very dynamic art education facility. And—quite possibly—a brand-new prize to announce! Amongst many other exhibitions and terrific public programs, education workshops and fun events. We’re as busy as ever. I’m so lucky and incredibly grateful to have such a supertalented, hardworking, dedicated team of fabulous women to work with. They make work fun every day. Working with artists and partner galleries is the absolute icing on the cake (which, incidentally, goes very nicely with bubbly!).

Alex Seton Easing the Tension (detail) 2021 Wombeyan marble 120 x 58 cm Photo: Mark Pokorny


Quick Curate:

Melbourne Art Fair: Stockroom


Yvette Coppersmith Afterimage No 1, 2021 Oil on jute 137 cm x 198 cm $17,600 incl. GST

Sanné Mestrom To Drift/ You Stand, 2021 Concrete and bronze Made to order. Variations possible, 121 x 60 x 65 cm. Edition of 3 plus 2 artist’s proofs. Photo: Sanné Mestrom $29,700 incl. GST

Jemima Wyman Plume 16, 2021 hand cut digital photos 22.5 x 78 cm Photo: Ed Mumford $8,500

Polly Borland BOD 1 cast aluminium, matte finish automotive paint 61 x 42.5 x 27 cm, edition of 5 plus 2 artist’s proofs (#1/5). Image courtesy Polly Borland and UAP, Brisbane. Photo: Grace Dooner $26,500


Quick Curate: Melbourne Art Fair: Stockroom


Karla Dickens Keep Smiling IV, 2022 mixed media 64 x 64 cm. Photo: Aaron Anderson $9,900 incl. GST

Hiromi Tango Furisode Peony 振袖牡丹, 2022 kimono silk, textile and acrylic mirror 35 x 35 x 14 cm Photo: Aaron Anderson $7,700 incl. GST

TOP: Natalya Hughes Two Girls under an Umbrella, 2021, hand tufted rug: cotton yarn, secondary and backing cloth, tape and adhesive 120 x 80 cm. Edition of 3 plus 1 artist’s proof. Enquire for detail. BOTTOM: Maria Fernanda Cardoso Callitris gracilis cones, 2021 brass pins, mounted on corrugated polypropylene and archival cotton rag matt board 34.7 x 47 cm Photo: Aaron Anderson $4,800 incl GST





8 January to 13 March 2022





Please join us for the Ngununggula Official Opening on Saturday 12 March 2022. A FREE event filled with fun activities for all ages celebrating the opening of the Southern Highlands’ first Regional Gallery. Visit our website for more information. Ngununggula 1 Art Gallery Lane, Bowral NSW 2576 | Open daily 10am - 4pm

Hearth by Moonacres Open daily 8am - 4pm For reservations 02 4861 6629 or email

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Naminapu Maymuru-White Mil ŋiyawuy (Nami) 2 (detail), 2021 earth pigment on stringy bark (eucalyptus sp.) 127.5 x 72 cm Image courtesy the artist and Buku Larrŋgay Mulka. Photo: Mark Pokorny


Jemima Wyman Billow 1..., 2021 hand-cut digital photos 122 x 123 cm Photo: Ed Mumford

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Polly Borland, Morph 12, 2018, archival pigment print Small: 92 x 78.5 cm. Large: 200 x 162.5 cm. © Polly Borland. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf.

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