Influential Badtjala Artist Fiona Foley’s First Major Solo Exhibition Starts Soon

McClelland will present influential Badtjala artist Fiona Foley’s first major solo exhibition, an important amplification of the voices and perspectives of Aboriginal people.

Curated by Queensland Aboriginal researcher, writer and curator, Angelina Hurley, the exhibition is on tour from QUT Art Museum, where it was first shown in 2021.

Fiona Foley: Veiled Paradise runs at McClelland from 25 June – 9 October 2022 and will see a significant cross-section of key works from Foley’s nearly forty-year career come together in a comprehensive exhibition.

Foley’s work is informed by her ancestral connection to K’gari/Fraser Island, drawing equally upon its serene beauty and the history of systemic violence and sexual exploitation perpetrated on its shores.

Incorporating original research around the Government-regulated opium trade and of the connection between sex and violence on the frontier and beyond, the artist refutes colonisation’s attempts to erase her people and their histories.

Tirelessly, through painting, photography, film, sculpture and printmaking, Foley gives voice to the dispossessed. The exhibition explores themes of sex, violence, opium and land, in an expansive overview of artwork from the last few decades.

Foley’s practice, spanning over almost forty years—from the co-founding of Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative in Redfern in the mid-1980s, to now, has seen the artist flip the lens of ethnography in the restaging of history and events in her artwork.

“I recall a recent brief introduction Fiona gave,” said Angelina Hurley, Exhibition curator, “as ‘someone who has worked in the arts for over thirty years’—a modest understatement I thought. The room needed to be schooled further on the importance of her art and career. It’s something everyone needs to know.”

“Knowing Fiona from my days as an arts worker in Sydney in the early 90s, as a board member advocating for Aboriginal arts back then, she’s always been an artist of conviction, passion and truth-telling. Displaying previously unseen works Veiled Paradise is recognition of an artist who has not only paved the way for the next generation of First Nations contemporary artists but is an inspirational voice for Aboriginal women,” Hurley added.

Veiled Paradise sees some of Foley’s most iconic works and some of her less-seen works put into the spotlight. This exhibition also features three new works—The Magna Carta Tree 2021, a photographic series; the new sculptural work Eleven Days; and a new series of Foley’s iconic hoods, titled Hunted III.

Seminal works included in the exhibition include works from the artist’s Black Velvet series, breast plates from the series Horror Has a Face, and the photographic series The Oyster Fisherman 2011.

Less-seen works include one of the artist’s earlier sculptural works, Annihilation of the Blacks 1986; the painting Aboriginals Excluded 1985 Perspecta vs Token Aboriginals included 1989 Perspecta 1989; and a series of banners which utilize Badtjala language, Ya kari—speak for 2001.

Four films will be showing as part of the exhibition, including the latest film, Out of the Sea Like Cloud 2019, which looks at the oldest recorded encounter of the 1770 Endeavour ship’s voyage which sailed past Takky Wooroo, K’gari—the encounter was recorded by the Badtjala people.

Also included are the films BlissVexed and A Quintessential Act.

Dr Fiona Foley—Artist

Dr Fiona Foley is a founding member of Boomalli Aboriginal Artist Co-operative. She exhibits regularly in Australia and internationally. Her recent solo exhibitions were held at Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane in 2017 and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne in 2012.

Foley completed her PhD with Griffith University in 2017. The thesis examined Queensland’s legislation, “The Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act” 1897. Her new work on this subject was received with significant interest.

In 2017 Foley was appointed Adjunct Professor to Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples at Southern Cross University. In 2014 she was the recipient of an Australia Council Visual Arts Award.

She is a regular keynote speaker at conferences and symposia all over the world. In 2014 she convened Courting Blakness: Recalibrating Knowledge in the Sandstone University at the University of Queensland, where she was an Adjunct Professor (2011-2017).

Angelina Hurley—Curator

Curator Angelina Hurley is an Aboriginal woman from Brisbane of Gooreng Gooreng, Mununjali, Birriah Gamilaraay heritage.

A writer, she is the daughter of renowned Aboriginal Artist Ron Hurley. Her short film Aunty Maggie and the Womba Wakgun was produced by Screen Australia’s The New Black series 2009. She was the recipient of the American-Australian Fulbright Commission’s Indigenous Scholarship in 2010, attending the Tisch School of Art at NYU in 2011. Angelina is undertaking a PhD at Griffith University, Film School.

Her PhD encompasses two components, the creative writing of an Aboriginal comedy television series and a thesis entitled Pointing the Funny Bone: Blak Comedy and Aboriginal Cultural Perspectives on Humour.

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