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Breadth of Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Inspires

Regional Arts NSW Aboriginal Arts Officer, Anthony Walker, has returned from the 2014 Indigenous Art Fair in Cairns inspired by the range and depth of the activities at the fair, including a symposium on the different sectors of the Aboriginal art industry.

‘Participating in the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Collector’s and Curator’s program was a fabulous opportunity to network with Australia’s leading Indigenous art curators and develop a range of skills which will assist me to further support the Indigenous arts development officers in regional NSW,’ Walker said.

‘Respected curator and presenter of the recent ABC program, art and soul, Hetti Perkins convened this aspect of the art fair giving us access to the expertise and insight of people whose knowledge and understanding of the work they are curating presents the work at its best,’ he said.

Walker said one of the highlights for him was the opportunity to preview SOLID! The Queensland Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture exhibition curated by Bruce McLean at Cairns Regional Gallery and featuring work by Abe Muriata, Brian Robinson and Christian Thompson.

‘McLean’s curatorial skills have brought together an exhibition of sculptures that reflects the diversity and the range of group and personal experiences of Indigenous people in Queensland.

The program for the exhibition explains that the title comes from the term, ”too solid” that has come to apply to something or someone, that is both conceptually or mentally strong or unflinching. The work in the exhibition and also other works that could be viewed throughout the three days of the fair also reflected this.

Walker said he also had the opportunity to visit Robinson’s studio with the artist, and view a demonstration by Theo Tremblay at his print workshop.

‘Tremblay is a pioneer of collaborative printmaking and publishing, mentoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists in a range of print mediums.

Walker said through the arts market at the fair all people had the opportunity to view the range of work being created by Indigenous artists.

‘This extends beyond what might still be regarded as traditional art, that is paintings to work in many mediums and we also have strong traditions in dance and music.’

Walker said there was increasing support for festivals with Aboriginal arts at their centre.

‘This acknowledges not only the traditions, but also the expertise and that Aboriginal arts contributes to local, regional and national economies.’

‘My visit to the Cairns Indigenous Fair included participating in the Governor’s Luncheon where I met with Art Gallery South Australia’s first Aboriginal curator, Nici Cumpston to discuss opportunities for NSW regional artists to be part of the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual arts festival in Spring next year.’

‘Nici, who is also a photographer and a writer, is the inaugural artistic director for the festival supported by Art Gallery South Australia, the South Australian government and BHP Billiton.’

Announcing the festival, South Australian premier, Jay Weatherill said the festival will strengthen the future of Aboriginal art as a high-end industry.

*Feature slider image from Segar Passi’s exhibition, 1960’s to the Present