Artists unveil epic new works at national exhibition

House of Discards by Tony Albert. Photo credit: Zan Wimberley.

Queensland College of Art lecturer Dr Julie Fragar and several alumni have unveiled stunning new works for a national exhibition at Sydney’s Carriageworks gallery.

The National: New Australian Art is a major survey exhibition featuring 58 artists, staged across three major Sydney galleries: the Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Carriageworks.

The biennial exhibition presents a snapshot of the best Australian contemporary art.

An epic work

This is Not a Dress Rehearsal: A Catalogue of Final Options Courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney

Dr Fragar’s epic 2.7m x 2m oil painting, This is Not a Dress Rehearsal: A Catalogue of Final Options, was handpicked by Carriageworks curator Daniel Mudie Cunningham.

“It’s an incredible honour to be selected for something like this at a national level,” she said.

The complex, richly layered painting is the largest work she has ever produced.

“This represents three months of incredibly intense work,” she said.

“My idea was to look at how we can possibly imagine our own death, when all we know about death is what it leaves behind.

“It was a massive undertaking and physically tough – I was working on tables and platforms and wearing a back brace.”

So how does an artist know when the work is finished?

“The deadlines help!” she said.

“If I walk into the studio and blush when I see the work, I know it’s not ready to share. Once I can sit in front of it and feel content, it’s finished.”

Dr Fragar said her teaching career at the QCA provided the perfect foil for her artistic practice.

“I love teaching at the QCA – it works a very different side of my brain,” she said.

Art with a message

Several Queensland College of Art alumni are also featured in the exhibition, including Tony Albert, Robert Andrew, Hannah Bronte and Eric Bridgeman.

Tony Albert, known for his stunning contemporary works that examine Australia’s colonial legacy, has created a large-scale sculpture, House of Discards.

Tony was born in Townsville to a Girramay/Kuku Yalanji father and a non-Indigenous mother.

He credits theQueensland College of Art’s unique Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art with providing him with a foundation as an artist.

“I knew I wanted to study art, and to find a course that allowed me to major in contemporary Australian Indigenous art was amazing,” he said.

“No one in my family had gone to uni before, but everyone at the QCA was so supportive and the course really provided the foundation of my entire art practice.”

After Tony graduated in 2004, he soon became one of the country’s most lauded young artists. His work has won over critics and gallery goers alike, using humour and re-appropriation of kitsch ‘Aboriginalia’ to challenge the way First Peoples are represented in popular culture.

The House of Discards represents a move toward abstract art, rather than explicit political imagery.

“I was thinking more abstractly about shape, space and angles,” he said.

“But when that is juxtaposed with political and critical content, the work is at its most successful.”

An outstanding achievement

Queensland College of Art Director Professor Derrick Cherrie said it was an honour to have faculty and alumni work selected for the exhibition, which celebrates the country’s best contemporary artists.

“To be selected for an event like The National is an outstanding achievement, and is recognition of the unique artistic voices emerging from the QCA.” he said.

“The fact that our faculty and alumni are consistently represented at the very highest echelons of the art world reflects the calibre of teaching and learning at the QCA.”