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ARTIST INTERVIEW

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Fiona Foley: Forbidden

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)

Duration

12 Nov 2009 to 31 Jan 2010

Co-Curators: Rachel Kent (MCA) & Michele Helmrich (UQAM)

from the series
HHH 2004
Collection The University of Queensland, Brisbane, purchased 2008
Installation view Fiona Foley: Forbidden, MCA, 2009
Image courtesy and © the artist

left to right
HHH #1 2004
HHH 2004
Collection The University of Queensland, Brisbane, purchased 2008
Installation view Fiona Foley: Forbidden, MCA, 2009
Image courtesy and © the artist

left to right
Badtjala Woman (crossed string) 1994; Badtjala Woman (with collecting bag) 1994; Badtjala Woman (two sets of beads) 1994, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, purchased 1995, installation view Fiona Foley: Forbidden, MCA, 2009, image courtesy and © the artist

Fiona Foley: Forbidden
Installation view, MCA, 2009
Image courtesy and © the artist

Fiona Foley: Forbidden
Installation view, MCA, 2009
Image courtesy and © the artist

front
Dispersed 2008
Collection National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2008
Installation view Fiona Foley: Forbidden, MCA, 2009
Image courtesy and © the artist

Land Deal 1995
Collection National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Installation view Fiona Foley: Forbidden, MCA, 2009
Image courtesy and © the artist

Land Deal (detail) 1995
Collection National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Installation view Fiona Foley: Forbidden, MCA, 2009
Image courtesy and © the artist

Black velvet 1996
Collection Queensland Art Gallery, purchased 2001, Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant
Installation view Fiona Foley: Forbidden, MCA, 2009
Image courtesy and © the artist

Stud Gins 2003
Installation view Fiona Foley: Forbidden, MCA, 2009
Image courtesy and © the artist

about the exhibition

Fiona Foley is a leading contemporary Australian artist as well as a curator and lecturer. This exhibition presented a survey of Foley’s art from 1994 to 2009 and included key works across photography, sculpture and installation, printmaking and video. Descended from the Badtjala people of Thoorgine or K’gari (Fraser Island) and based in Brisbane, Foley explores a range of concerns through her practice including colonial race relations, sexuality and the experiences of Queensland’s Aboriginal populations at the turn of the twentieth century. Through her art Foley mines forgotten or hidden histories, bringing them to light as a means to assess our present in relation to the past.

Foley’s works consider the pervasiveness of power relationships and inequalities in Australia, from her careful re-staging of colonial photography to her recent investigation of the history of opium in Queensland and the ‘Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act’ of 1897. She says, ‘My work is talking about the racial tension that’s here in this country and is never fully articulated — it’s always under the surface.’ Foley cloaks her politics within symbols and scenarios that are all the more powerful for their restraint. The installation Land Deal is simply comprised of the items that John Batman gave to the Wurundjeri people in 1835 in exchange for the land where the city of Melbourne now stands.

Despite the complexity of her subject matter, there is a sense of playfulness and humour to some of Foley’s works, from the racial inversion evident in her HHH photographic series (depicting Hedonistic Honky Haters), to the contemporary touches that disrupt her pseudo-colonial imagery or her playful recreation of racial conflict on Cronulla Beach. Foley’s photographs often involve a performative element and she frequently places herself within the pictorial frame. Side-stepping stereotypes, her works resonate for the first nation peoples of other lands and to those who are categorised as ‘other’ in this country today.

Foley’s art has been exhibited extensively in Australia and abroad. As well as her gallery works, she has created a number of public art commissions in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Fiona Foley: Forbidden represented her most comprehensive solo exhibition to date. It was presented in partnership with The University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane from the 19th February – 2nd May 2010.

This exhibition presented key works from the last fifteen years of Fiona Foley’s practice, including Native Blood and Badtjala Woman (1994); Land Deal (1995); Black Velvet (1996); Wild Times Call (2001) and the photographic series Signpost (2005) and HHH (2007). Foley’s film work, Bliss (2008) recently acquired for the MCA Collection, was also featured in the exhibition.

Featuring Works from the MCA Collection

Fiona Foley
Troy Melville

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