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Blackwater

Imagine
swimming over black water
Bright sunlight overhead
endless depths beneath

Blackwater sets our pulse racing, powered by an intense awareness of the vulnerability of the body, a rising tide of fear and anxiety. Ron Mueck startles us with his massively over-scaled woman. This shy she-giant looks towards Yang Shaobin s monumental paintings of the blackened lungs of Chinese miners who died as a result of their working conditions a familiar storyin recent Queensland mining history.
Can we care for the environment while still enabling growth? Do we pay attention when the impact of change falls more heavily on some than others? Taloi Havini opens a window into such questions in her image of the vast open-cut Panguna mine in Papua New Guinea toxic, contested and now closed. Chen Qiulin works with a group of flower sellers to create a moving elegy to the lives disrupted by the Three Gorges Dam project on China s Yangtze River.

In considering the links between the human body, sustenance, consumption and resources, Blackwater connects unhealthy dependencies and environmental imbalance alongside the dark aftermath of colonisation. Romuald Hazoum� s neo-tribal masks made from plastic oil cans speak to the rebalancing of ancient beliefs with contemporary values and trade dynamics subjects also addressed in Gordon Bennett s dislocated and deeply ironic self-portrait. Can an image of another person bring us closer to their experience? Fiona Pardington s photographs of life-cast plaster heads from the Pacific remind us of the complex histories held within museum collections.

Blackwater is deeply uneasy, and yet to be in deep water is not without its pleasures. This place of vulnerability also links to sensuality and the experience of other realms we fear the power of the shark as much as we might admire its functional beauty, and the dappled surface of the water is a dynamic meeting place between two worlds.

Underlying Stories

BURN, Ian; Value added landscape no. 10

Ian Burn’s painting asks us to consider the way personal and social values can shape our perception of art and the landscape. A landscape painting of Townsville, by amateur artist W F Shaw, is overlaid with text about representation and meaning. The term ‘value-added’ refers to the economic principle of processing raw materials for financial gain, hinting at the way landscape is often overlaid with histories and politics of ownership.

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Generated image of the artwork: Magnetic fields of the heart

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CARCHESIO, Eugene; Magnetic fields of the heart

Eugene Carchesio's work addresses the enigmatic, mysterious, and spiritual, working on a minimal and miniature scale. Carchesio is a musician and a wide reader, and his artworks reflect these varied interests. The juxtaposition of primary coloured geometric shapes with delicate tonal renderings of classical forms symbolise the boundaries and mergings between art and science.

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CARCHESIO, Eugene; Dead angel vs intelligent radar

Dead angel vs intelligent radar shows a prostrate angel, with radio-transmitter towers behind and a target-like device centred on the lifeless body. Pale geometric shapes and undulating lines represent electromagnetic waves, and suggest an aerial battlefield. The work forms a poignant observation on technology at war with myth and belief.

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CHEN Qiulin; Garden

In Garden a group of migrant workers deliver bouquets of fake peonies to new dwellings and highrises along the banks of the Yangtze river in Central China. Known as the Three Gorges Dam district, this area has undergone significant change and destruction due to a vast hydro-electric project. The peony is known as the ‘flower of riches and honour’ in China, and signifies the fragility of life and its potential for renewal.

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Generated image of the artwork: Maafu and Vecsey (from 'Liliu' series)

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HOOPER, Julian; Liliu' series

'Liliu' means ‘to change’ or ‘transform’ in the Tongan language, and this series by Julian Hooper recounts the amorous and financial adventures of his ancestor, Count Gideon Vecsey, who arrived in Fiji from Hungary in 1870. The Count returns clearly references Edouard Manet’s iconic painting Olympia 1865, although reversing the relationships between black and white, servant and master. In Maafu and Vecsey, Count Vecsey is shown standing on an outrigger alongside a Tongan Prince.

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Generated image of the artwork: Connection

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PUTRIH, Tobias; Connection

Connection is constructed from cardboard boxes, diminishing slightly in size so that each box fits into the preceding one, playfully undermining both the structural principle of the arch and the heroic dimensions associated with bridges, cathedrals and victory arches. The inherent paradox of a monumental and stable architectural form made of something as impermanent as cardboard is typical of Tobias Putrih’s approach to sculpture – as an experimental and constructive process rather than a resolved form.

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Generated image of the artwork: Gan'yu (Stars)

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YUNUPINGU, Gulumbu; Gan'yu (Stars)

The transitions between day and night and the transformative qualities of light and darkness offer revelatory moments in the sacred traditions of the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land. From her immersion in sacred art traditions, Gulumbu Yunupingu uses the act of painting as a conduit to knowledge – an activity that becomes a revelatory process. Her paintings of ganyu (stars) are a means of cataloguing impressions of the infinite variation of the night sky through patterns of repetition and difference.

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Generated image of the artwork: Wollobi (Standing fish net)

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DULLMAN, Dorothy Bienenwangu; Wollobi (Standing fish net)

Dorothy Bienenwangu Dullman’s Wollobi is a knotted string fishing net used by her people in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory in billabongs and creeks to catch small fish. This particularly fine example, made from the finely-spun, young leaves of the sand palm, assumes an elegant ‘butterfly’ shape when hanging. In the artist’s words:

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Generated image of the artwork: Portrait of a life-cast of Pitani, Solomon Islands (from 'Ahua: A beautiful hesitation' series)

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PARDINGTON, Fiona; Ahua: A beautiful hesitation series

In 2001, Fiona Pardington began a body of work examining collections of cultural objects in New Zealand's museums. Through the process of studying, selecting, assembling and then photographing – shells, birds and hei tiki (personal ornaments) – Pardington engages with the complex interplay of culture, science and history, while also questioning the ethics of museum acquisition, classification and display.

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Generated image of the artwork: Untitled

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BOOTH, Peter; Untitled

Peter Booth’s dream-like images draw on his childhood memories of the bleak industrial city of Sheffield in England. Untitled 2002 has an ominous feel, with its heavy layers of black paint, and strange geometric forms that populate an organic landscape. Falling snow adds to a sense of silent abandonment.

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Generated image of the artwork: Red Shift

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COTTON, Shane; Red Shift

Red Shift draws on ideas of transformation, uncertainty and being adrift from one’s culture. The work alludes to the story of Taiamai, a great bird that once arrived in the artist’s region of Northland, bringing so much mana (power) to the people that a rival chief attempted to capture it. The bird escaped by melting into the rock, where its spirit remains.

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Nathalie Djurberg, Putting down the prey

Nathalie Djurberg explores themes of fantasy, dreams and sexuality through short stop-frame animations, and is interested in the way fairytales and fables address fear and threat. In Icelandic and Celtic folklore 'Silkies' are seals who became human by shedding their animal skins.

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Generated image of the artwork: Mediterranean Sea (afternoon effect) 4-2-02

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FINCH, Spencer; Mediterranean Sea (afternoon effect) 4-2-02

For these works, Spencer Finch made precise recordings in watercolour of the colours of the Mediterranean Sea, from shore to horizon. These works attempt to create a seascape without employing the conventions of representational art. Part of an ongoing series, Finch has represented his observations of bodies of water in various locations, including the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and the River Seine.

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Generated image of the artwork: Untitled

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HENSON, Bill, Untitled

In his 'cut-screen' photographs, Bill Henson 'de-composes' his images into fragments of glossy colour print re-assembled with adhesive tape. Depicting scenes such as accidents and domestic disasters, the photographs create a sense of dystopic unease.

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Generated image of the artwork: For the love of God, laugh

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HIRST, Damien; For the love of God, laugh

Damien Hirst’s screenprint of a skull is rendered in fine detail against a background covered with diamond dust. To this already sparkling surface Hirst adds a thick and shining glaze. This focus on excess reveals consumption as both a game and madness and draws on a tradition of ‘memento mori’ painting to comment on market driven consumption of art.

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Generated image of the artwork: Live the (Big Black) Dream

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de MEDICI, eX; Live the (Big Black) Dream

Ex de Medici focuses on signs of power and control and on the fragility and brevity of life. Scattered skulls, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant encased in its own snow-dome sarcophagus, and 'Little Boy', the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, are set against an apocalyptic cloud. The various objects represent the detritus of our resource-consuming society.

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Generated image of the artwork: Ruby's room no. 17

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NOBLE, Anne; Ruby's room (no. 17)

In her Ruby’s Room series of works, Anne Noble has created innocent, humorous, sometimes confronting, portraits of her daughter Ruby.  The photographs appeal to general ideas of play, intimacy and discovery, by focusing on the mouth, which Noble describes as ‘a site where life happens...The mouth that speaks, tastes, smiles, reacts, learns, loves.'...

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NOONAN, David; Owl (from 'Waldhaus' series)

David Noonan’s practice is based on the transformation of found imagery. The owl is a recurrent symbol and in this painting he creates an eerie, gothic portrait of the bird. Noonan comments: ‘In cinema and literature the owl is often associated with the supernatural or is a foreboder of evil. It has strongly established symbolic meanings that are built up from folk tales and gothic fiction’.

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PIVI, Paola; One love

One Love calls to mind eighteenth century European paintings of menageries, in which ‘exotic’ species were brought to Europe via colonial trade routes for the entertainment of the wealthy. This bucolic and idyllic scene is rendered uneasy on close examination – the animals are all white, raising the spectre of ‘white’ identity and racist histories.

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Generated image of the artwork: Ghost net basket

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TORENBEEK, Mahnah Angela; Ghost net basket

Mahnah Angela Torenbeek is of both Torres Strait and South Pacific heritage. Ghost nets are large fishing nets abandoned at sea. The nets entrap and destroy not only threatened species, but also protected fish, important turtle species and large mammals. This new material is encouraging a weaving revival in the Torres Strait, with artists making traditional styles and also inventing new forms. Torenbeek shapes ghost nets over solid objects such as a fishing float, saucepan or bowl, and adds texture and colour as she builds.

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Generated image of the artwork: Ghost net gear bag

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SABATINO, Reggie; Ghost net gear bag

Reggie Sabatino was born on Palm Island, Queensland and lives on Kiriri (Hammond) Island. His Dauareb clan affiliations are with Mer (Murray Island). Sabatino has been inspired by the techniques and processes of recycling ghost nets, in association The Ghost Net Programme, which was set up to protect marine life in the north. Local sea rangers collect the nets from the beaches and distribute them to indigenous artists, who reuse the durable fabric to make bright, attractive bags and soft sculptures.

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Generated image of the artwork: Red Shift

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COTTON, Shane; Red Shift

In Red Shift, Shane Cotton draws on the idea of transformation. A prevalent concept in the artist’s practice, it also characterises much of his own tribal lore. The work alludes to the story of Taiamai, a great bird that once arrived in the artist’s region of Northland, bringing so much mana (power) to the people that a rival chief attempted to capture it. The bird escaped by melting into the rock, where its spirit remains.

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Generated image of the artwork: Russel and the Panguna Mine (from 'Blood Generation' series)

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HAVINI, Taloi; Russel and the Panguna Mine (from 'Blood Generation series)

A descendant of the Hakö people of Bougainville, Taloi Havini’s ‘Blood generation’ portraits show the deep connection to land that her people have, despite the ravages of open-cut mining and over ten years of civil war (1988–2000). In this work, Russel squats on the very top edge of the Panguna landscape once owned by six different indigenous groups, looking reflectively across its now empty, terraced expanse.

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Generated image of the artwork: Fire of the Year 8

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VANDY Rattana; Fire of the Year

Vandy Rattana’s Fire of the year series depicts a fire that razed the district of ‘Dteuk Tlah’ (Clear Water) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, home to 300 families. The photographs gesture to deeper political conditions in Cambodia, including its expanding urban populations, and the limited infrastructure available to support them.

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Generated image of the artwork: Russel and the Panguna Mine (from 'Blood Generation' series)

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HAVINI, Taloi; Russel and the Panguna Mine (from 'Blood Generation series)

Taloi Havini and Stuart Miller’s photographs respond to the history and culture of Bougainville where Havini was born. A descendant of the Hakö people, Havini’s ‘Blood generation’ portraits show the deep connection to land that her people have, despite the ravages of open-cut mining and over ten years of civil war (1988–2000). The portraits of Buka youth depict a group of young people who were born during the bloody Bougainville conflict and known as the ‘blood generation’.

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