Sullivan+Strumpf open solo exhibition from acclaimed First Nations contemporary artist Tony Albert

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Sullivan+Strumpf open solo exhibition from acclaimed First Nations contemporary artist Tony Albert
Installation view, Tony Albert, Remark, Sullivan+Strumpf Melbourne, October 2022. Photo: Mark Pokorny.

MELBOURNE.- Sullivan+Strumpf Melbourne gallery opened its doors on Thursday November 10, and the team couldn’t be more thrilled to be launching with the Naarm solo exhibition debut of internationally acclaimed First Nations contemporary artist Tony Albert. For anyone who doesn’t know Tony and his work, this show is going to be a treat, and an inspirational introduction to one of Australia’s most exciting contemporary artistic voices.

In a career spanning almost 20 years, Tony has won numerous awards and garnered critical acclaim, both nationally and on the world stage.

In the past 12 months alone, he has created artworks and installations for group shows around Australia and internationally – in New York, Singapore and Bali, in addition to several major public art commissions – for QAGOMA, the Queen’s Wharf in Brisbane and the new Alliance Stadium in Sydney, where his design, Two Worlds Colliding: Water & Land, adorns the entirely of the stadium seating.

In January 2022 he represented Australia at aabaakwad [it clears after a storm], a gathering of international Indigenous artists, curators and thinkers at the 2022 Venice Biennale.

And, on October 21st, proppaNOW Indigenous art collective – of which he was/is a founding and ongoing member, was honoured with the 2022-2024 Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice [an international award managed by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New York], for the significance and impact of their activities since 2003.

His works are held in the collections of leading Australian and international museums – including locally, the National Gallery of Victoria, and by private collectors.

For his Melbourne solo debut Tony presented Remark - an expansion on his acclaimed Conversations with Margaret Preston series, presented for the first time in a sell-out exhibition at Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney in November 2021, and part of an ongoing investigation into the appropriation of Indigenous Australian iconography in domestic design and decoration.

In this latest collection of paintings, works on paper, and text-based works, Tony draws on vintage fabrics from his extensive collection of ‘Aboriginalia’ to critically engage with this iconography in his own right, recasting the people and cultural materials depicted in his finished works, and releasing them from their racist caricatures.

Comprising vintage fabrics and a vast assortment of kitsch objects and images featuring racist portrayals of Aboriginal people and cultural materials, Albert's ‘Aboriginalia’ collection was started in his childhood and is the foundation that he has returned to again and again, in artistically interrogating the contemporary legacies of colonialism.

Tony Albert, Remark runs at Sullivan+Strumpf Melbourne until Saturday December 10, 2022.

Chris Saines, Director Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
“Albert’s work considers how ownership of the representation of Indigenous Australians has rarely rested with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves. How non-Indigenous Australians have historically depicted Indigenous Australians — chiefly in kitsch tourist collectibles known as ‘Aboriginalia’ – is indicative of a complex relationship. He interrogates those representations through a provocative mix of humour, darkness and poignancy.”

Tony Albert, on Remark
“Like the fabric of Australian society, the appropriated Indigenous imagery printed on souvenir tea towels intertwines in a complicated web of national identity. These are not images by Aboriginal people and our voices and autonomy continued to be silenced through the object’s inauthenticity. As a country we must reconcile with these objects’ very existence. They are painful reiterations of a violent and oppressive history, but we also cannot hide or destroy them because they are an important societal record that should not be forgotten. As an artist this juxtaposition and tension fascinates me.”

Tony Albert
Tony Albert is one of Australia’s foremost contemporary artists with a longstanding interest in the cultural misrepresentation of Aboriginal people. Drawing on both personal and collective histories, his multidisciplinary practice considers the ways in which optimism might be utilised to overcome adversity. His work poses crucial questions such as how do we remember, give justice to, and rewrite complex and traumatic histories?

Albert’s commitment to connecting and collaborating with other artists has made him an integral part of Australia’s contemporary arts community. He was/ is a founding and ongoing member of Brisbane-based Indigenous art collective, proppaNOW, which was recently [in October 2022] honoured with the 2022-2024 Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice [an international award managed by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New York], for the significance and impact of their activities since 2003 He is also the first Indigenous Trustee for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a member of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Indigenous advisory, a board member for the City of Sydney's Public Art Panel, and member of the Queensland Children's Hospital Arts in Health committee. In January 2022 Tony represented Australia at aabaakwad (it clears after a storm), a gathering of international Indigenous artists, curators and thinkers at the 2022 Venice Biennale as part of the programming for the Nordic/Sami Pavilion, curated by Wanda Nanibush. In December 2022 Tony will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Griffith University for his significant contribution to the arts.

Albert’s important work has been acknowledged industry-wide with multiple prestigious awards and commissions. Two major public art commissions have recently been announced including Albert’s monumental 15-metre-long floating botanical sculpture, Inhabitant, which will welcome visitors at the entrance of the transformational Queen’s Wharf in Brisbane, and The Big Hose, an iconic outdoor play sculpture for QAGOMA which is being made in collaboration with artist Nell. Also in 2022, Albert was commissioned to design an artwork for the new Sydney Football Stadium’s seats. Albert’s major installation Healing Land, Remembering Country was unveiled at the 2020 Biennale of Sydney. In 2019 Carriageworks presented a major five-metre-high sculpture, House of Discards, commissioned for The National 2019: New Australian Art. In the same year Albert was commissioned by The National Gallery of Australia to deliver a significant illuminated public artwork, I am Visible. In 2013 Albert was commissioned by the City of Sydney to create an artwork for the Sydney Hyde Park War Memorial, installed in Hyde Park South on Anzac Day 2015 to commemorate indigenous soldiers.

Albert is strongly represented in major national collections including the National Gallery of Australia; the Australian War Memorial, Canberra; the National Gallery of Victoria; the Art Gallery of New South Wales; Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art—Queensland Art Gallery; and the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Albert’s acclaimed practice is acknowledged in Phaidon’s newly released, Prime: Arts Next Generation, 2022, featuring the top 100 most distinctive and innovative young artists from around the world.

Born in 1981 in Townsville, QLD, Albert is a descendant of the Girramay, Kuku Yalanji and Yidinji people of the East Cape and Yidinji Rainforest regions.

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