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Soaring

Imagine the earth falling away
beneath you, a sensation of lightness
The land below is all pattern and
rhythm, a dappled skin

We don t need wings to soar. We fly also when we stretch our thoughts, our imaginations. We soar when we discover new patterns and insights. From Tobias Putrih s arch of cardboard boxes to Gabriel Orozco s suspended  skeletal wing, and the undulating rhythms of Doreen Nakamarra Reid s vision of her country, this chapter of Sugar Spin brings together many different patterns: in landscapes, on the skin, through genes and generations.

The profound and sustaining connections between land and body are explored in the graphic rhythms of Dhuwarrwarr Marika s painting connecting the form of the waterhole with the fontinel of a newborn. Familial lines animate Vernon Ah Kee s charcoal portraits of his daughter and great-grandmother and adjacent to the media gallery Judith Wright s consideration of the breast and the links between mother and child. These patterns of continuity and the tender relationships between generations are disrupted in Gordon Bennett s The Shooting Gallery 1989, as what initially appears to be a more traditional dot painting resolves into the scene of a massacre. Pattern can both reveal and hide deeper truths. These works ask us to train our eyes and think deeply of this place, the broader world, creation and destruction. Cai Guo-Qiang brings all of these factors into a form of cosmology in his sinuous drawing created with gunpowder explosions.

An understanding of the structures that underpin our society is vital to its evolution and growth. Soaring includes Finau Mara s delicately woven mat for a small baby; Sandra Selig s threaded intersecting trajectories; Carl Warner s studies of the concrete underside of bridges; and Rivane Neuenschwander s world map marked out in honey, slowly being consumed by ants. Nourishment and knowledge exist in tension with the potential for over-consumption; tenderness and care coexist with devastation.

Underlying Stories

Generated image of the artwork: The skin speaks a language not its own

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KHER, Bharti; The skin speaks a language not its own

In The skin speaks a language not its own Bharti Kher critically engages with the role of popular culture and imagery in contemporary Indian art by using the bindi and the white elephant as potent symbolic metaphors.

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Generated image of the artwork: sacred ground beating heart

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WATSON, Judy; sacred ground beating heart

Through paint and pigment Judy Watson offers evidence of intimate encounters with the pulse of the earth, heat, air and moisture   the geographical emblems of her heartland. These allusions link with Australian Aboriginal references to totemic beings or culture heroes who metamorphosed into landscape features such as hills and rocks, and who continue to manifest their presence as meteorological or astral phenomena.

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Generated image of the artwork: Double tail

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OROZCO, Gabriel; Double tail

Gabriel Orozco has fashioned a suspended object that generates a visual tension between gravity and mass, flatness and three-dimensionality, surface and form. Made from expanded polyurethane foam, fragile despite its solid appearance, the resulting sculpture resembles fossils or skeletal structures on the one hand and a futuristic, aquatic, or aerodynamic object on the other, an association emphasised by its title.

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Generated image of the artwork: Three children playing (from 'Portraits' series)

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AIRD, Michael; Three children playing (from 'Portraits' series)

In capturing this vibrant photograph, Michael Aird shares a familiar everyday view from the perspective of someone close to the community. Shortly after the photograph was taken he completed a degree in anthropology. By showing the three children playfully posing for the camera, he challenges conventional ethnographic views of Aboriginal people. Aird is conscious of the many difficulties faced by his people, and the need to fight for greater rights while celebrating their spirit and resilience.

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Generated image of the artwork: Milngurr

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MARIKA, Dhuwarrwarr; Milngurr

The movements of the Djang’kawu, ancestor creators who came from far across the sea, bringing warmth and light to the dark mainland world, are shown in this painting. They paddled their canoes with sacred digging sticks, then used them to pierce the dry Arnhem Land earth to make Milngurr, the first freshwater spring. Water overflowed and the land bloomed. The Djang’kawu gave birth to dhuwa moiety clan groups, and introduced ceremonies and laws by which people could live rich and productive lives.

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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 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: Under 405 (from 'Under' series)

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WARNER, Carl; Under series

Carl Warner concentrates on patterns in nature and scenes of industrial decay in his photographic practice, often recorded in areas in and around Brisbane and Melbourne. Warner’s ‘Under’ series takes its title and imagery from the underside of freeway overpasses. These works eloquently articulate his concern with the tension between representation and abstraction. Warner plays on the conscious irony of using photography, an invention of the industrial revolution, to record the decline of the industrial age.

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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 like those commonly used in her childhood by her people in Arnhem Land to catch small fish, in billabongs and creeks. This particularly fine example, made from the finely-spun, young leaves of the sand palm, assumes an elegant ‘butterfly’ shape when hanging. To catch fish, children would walk in the water, laughing and clapping, chasing the fish into the waiting nets held by men above.

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Generated image of the artwork: Trimanya

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JAMES, Jeanette; Trimanya; Traditional Palawa shell necklace

To make Trimanya, Jeannette James used around 90 quills from a single echidna, a road-kill victim. Special permission had to be granted to use the quills of this protected species, and the necklace is very rare. As James explains, ‘The echidna lives throughout Tasmania and was once a favourite food of the Aborigines. I have made this necklace with respect for the echidna and to acknowledge my ancestors and the importance of this animal in their lives’.

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Generated image of the artwork: sacred ground beating heart

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WATSON, Judy; sacred ground beating heart

Through paint and pigment Judy Watson offers evidence of intimate encounters with the pulse of the earth, heat, air and moisture – the geographical emblems of her heartland. These allusions link with Australian Aboriginal references to totemic beings or culture heroes who metamorphosed into landscape features such as hills and rocks, and who continue to manifest their presence as meteorological or astral phenomena.

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Generated image of the artwork: The theory of everything

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de MEDICI, eX

Observing contemporary politics and social issues, eX de Medici’s practice since the 1970s has included media as diverse as sound performance, installation, painting and photography. In the 1990s, the artist also achieved national renown as a professional tattooist of exquisite skill and sensitivity.

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Generated image of the artwork: The Children of Alpha
camera John Elliott

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ROBERTS, Luke; The Children of Alpha

Luke Roberts uses theories of kitsch, the occult and the supernatural – including aliens and outer-space – to stretch cultural standards, conventions and definitions of art. His birthplace of Alpha, in Central Queensland, has provided inspiration for a number of his works, and he also plays on the reference to Jean Luc-Goddard’s 1965 sci-fi movie, Alphaville, shot in Paris but set on another planet in the future.

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Generated image of the artwork: Freefall (from 'Forced into images' portfolio)

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DEACON, Destiny; Freefall (from 'Forced into images' portfolio)

Deacon's staged photographs are ambiguous and deliberately ironic. She constructs most of her tableau images from black dolls and other forms of not-so-innocent kitsch. In doing so, Deacon performs an intelligent re-contextualising and re-reading of these objects. 'Forced into images' is made up of ten printed polaroid photographs and a video that narrates the life of an Indigenous girl from birth to adulthood. Freefall is the first image in the series chronologically, showing the birth of a young baby.

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Generated image of the artwork: Burrut'tji (Lightning serpent)

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MARAWILI, Djambawa; Burrut'tji (Lightning serpent)

Here, Marawili has used paint to communicate a traditional story, while maintaining the cultural laws of secrecy important to the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land. Burrut'tji 2002 tells the important Yirridja moiety creation story of the Madarrpa people, where Baru (crocodile) dived into the waters off Yathikpa carrying the fire that burnt into his back. Burrut'tji embodies the sea and its powerful tides and currents, suggested here by fine hatching and waving lines.

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MARA, Finau; I yara yara

I yara yara are sleeping mats, created for newborns. Gifting is an essential part of Polynesian custom and only the most prized objects are given to commemorate events or relationships. Many different mats – for nurturing, bathing, sleeping and presentation ¬– are specially made to celebrate and guide the development of a new child. Finau Mara has played a major role in developing a contemporary understanding and appreciation of Fijian weaving internationally.

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Generated image of the artwork: Contingent

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NEUENSCHWANDER, Rivane; Contingent

Contingent presents a map of the world rendered in honey, slowly being consumed by a swarm of ants. The continents gradually erode; landmasses become fragmented islands. The title suggests a situation where one thing relies on the existence of another, pointing to humanity’s over-consumption of finite resources. Contingent also emphasises the role of the viewer in catalysing the artist’s intent.

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Generated image of the artwork: Tender

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HALL, Fiona; Tender

In Tender, Fiona Hall explores the complex relationship between the natural world and human systems of value, trade and exchange. The work consists of thousands of shredded US dollar bills painstakingly woven into 86 bird nests, each from a different species with its own particular nest design habitat. Many of the pieces were produced in the South Australian and Queensland Museums, after careful study of nests in the collections, as well as during Hall's visits to Sri Lanka.

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Generated image of the artwork: Tender

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HALL, Fiona; Tender, species of birds

The nests in ‘Tender’ are made by the following species of birds:

PHALACROCORACIDAE
Phalacrocorax melanoleucos
Little Pied Cormorant

RALLIDAE
Amaurornis phoenicurus
White-breasted Waterhen
Porzana tabuensis
Spotless Crake
Gallinula tenebrosa
Dusky Moorhen

COLUMBIDAE
Geopelia cuneata
Diamond Dove

APODIDAE
Collocalia terraereginae
Australian Swiftlet

PITTIDAE
Pitta versicolor
Noisy Pitta

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Generated image of the artwork: grandmother's song

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WATSON, Judy; grandmother's song

Through paint and pigment Judy Watson offers evidence of intimate encounters with the pulse of the earth, heat, air and moisture – the geographical emblems of her heartland. These allusions link with Australian Aboriginal references to totemic beings or culture heroes who metamorphosed into landscape features such as hills and rocks, and who continue to manifest their presence as meteorological or astral phenomena. grandmother's song was made after the passing of the artist’s grandmother.

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MARA, Finau; I yara yara

‘I yara yara’ are mats created for newborns. Many different mats are specially made to celebrate and guide the development of a new child, including nurturing, bathing, sleeping and presentation mats. ‘I yara yara’ are sleeping mats usually made with voi voi (pandanus) and decorated with somo (dyed pandanus) or dyed beach hibiscus patterns. Contemporary pieces are increasingly made with brightly coloured woollen fringes.

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Generated image of the artwork: Limits of Mapping

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NKANGA, Otobong

Otobong Nkanga’s painting and drawing practice explores the environmental impact of resource-driven development and hidden labour markets. Limits of Mapping is a map of an unidentified territory, which is pierced by a series of rods. This act of piercing draws the viewer’s attention to the two-dimensionality of the map, reminding us that maps are only able to present the surface of a deeper reality.

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Generated image of the artwork: Annie Ah Kee

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AH KEE, Vernon

Majestically scaled, these drawings depict the artist’s paternal great-grandmother Bella Ami and daughter Annie Ah Kee. Vernon Ah Kee focuses on two family members, one from three generations back, and the other one generation forward. Ah Kee shows us that time has many measures in his comparison of grandchild and grandparent, whose experiences span two very different ages. In the networks of gently overlaid lines making up these works we can read the patterns of care and connection linking one generation to another.
 

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BENNETT, Gordon; The Shooting Gallery

Gordon Bennett adapts evolving conventions of ‘Aboriginal’ dot painting to depict the terrifying moment before what was most likely an incident of extreme violence.  An Aboriginal family group are shown held at gunpoint by the Native Police in a dawn raid. What happened next? We might ask. Such traumatic experiences reshaped families and the way people lived with the land. Awareness of these events has been diffused by the flow of time, continuing history wars and the disappearance or marginalisation of those targeted.

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Generated image of the artwork: Dahorue & Nionihanoe (Omie mountains and jungle)

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UPIA, Stella; Dahorue & Nionihanoe (Omie mountains and jungle)

Stella Upia comes from the Omie people who live in Oro Province in Papua New Guinea. Omie barkcloths are created by women and are linked to wisdom and knowledge. They express a strong sense of place through semi-abstract, organic patterns, often based around a loosely geometric structure. In addition to clan and body tattoo designs, the motifs and iconography of the barkcloths often refer to the region’s flora and to the nearby Mount Lamington.

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UNKNOWN; Patung Cerita - Fumeripits myth

This work tells the story of Asmat creation hero Fumeripits. Fumeripits was revived by a medicine bird after drowning but found himself lonely and so began to carve human figures out of wood for company. Through drumming and singing, Fumeripits brought these figures to life, thus creating the Asmat people. Celebrated for their distinctive ceremonial ancestor poles and richly ornamented canoes, Asmat artists have only recently begun to work in this genre of narrative carving.

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Generated image of the artwork: What's the Time Mr Woolf

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PAREKOWHAI, Michael; What's the Time Mr Woolf

Michael Parekowhai’s works often reference childhood, and the title of this photograph refers to both the British novelist Virginia Woolf and to the children’s game of tag – a game about daring. The original photograph was taken by Ans Westra in the 1960s and shows a young Maori boy in a state school in the North Island of New Zealand where Parekowhai’s parents worked as teachers. At the time, instructors were not allowed to teach the Maori language to their students.

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Generated image of the artwork: Dahorue & Nionihanoe (Omie mountains and jungle)

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UPIA, Stella; Dahorue & Nionihanoe (Omie mountains and jungle)

Stella Upia comes from the Omie people, a small group of approximately 2000 people, who live in Oro Province in Papua New Guinea, on the southern slopes of Mount Lamington.

The Omie barkcloths evidence a rich cultural heritage and innovative practice. They express a strong sense of place through semi-abstract, organic patterns, and are often based around a loosely geometric structure. In addition to the clan and body tattoo designs, many Omie barkcloth refer to the region’s flora and to Mount Lamington itself.

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