First Nations artists from South East Australia have long faced struggles with being seen.
Seen and Unseen is an exhibition that will explore the work of the trailblazing artists from the 1990s, using the Can’t See for Lookin’ exhibition as a springboard to reflect on the impact of their work and how their voices have influenced generations to come.
Seen and Unseen: Expressions of Koorie Identity opens Saturday 7 August until 21 November 2021.
The ground-breaking exhibition, Can’t See for Lookin’ – Koorie Women Artists Educating at the NGV in 1993, emphasised the significance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women artists maintaining stories and art practices of cultural significance throughout Victoria. Conceived by respected Yorta Yorta / Wamba Wamba / Mutti Mutti / Boonwurrung artist and designer Maree Clarke and her late brother Peter Clarke, it brought together 12 women artists living in Victoria.
It also highlighted that the collaborative, cross-cultural working relationships could enable South East Australian First Nation’s histories to reach a broad and diverse audience.
The 1990s proved a pivotal time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists in Victoria; more Indigenous people were seeking to present their art and culture in a way that was truly aligned to their own heritage and connections. They also contested assumptions about South East Australian First Nations culture as inauthentic, and emphasised the complex history of colonial encounters.
The exhibition Can’t See for Lookin’ (1993), Aratjara travelling exhibition (1993-94), We Iri We Homeborn – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Festival (1996), and the Venice Biennale (1997) brought forth First Nation’s voices telling their own story.
Seen and Unseen will bring together artwork from the Can’t See for Lookin’ exhibition, KHT’s collection, archival material, oral history recordings along with artwork from other significant artists of the time. The exhibition will give voice to identities that is equally strong, resilient and significant.
Artists include: Maree Clarke; the late Ellen Jose; Aunty Rachel Mullett; the late Aunty Connie Alberts Hart; Lisa Kennedy; Donna Leslie; Dr Treahna Hamm; Karen Casey; Sonja Hodge; and Gayle Maddigan. Other significant artists from that time, include the late Lin Onus; Ray Thomas; Lyn Thorpe; and the late Les Griggs.
Additional artists include: Vicki Couzens, the late Len Tregonning, James Henry, Kent Morris and Sandra Aitken.
‘It’s difficult to imagine that it was close to 30 years ago that Koorie artists were struggling to have their art and culture acknowledged. The idea of being inauthentic is absurd and yet that idea was prevalent and widely held. Together these artists offer an insight into their struggles and triumphs and what it took for their voices to be heard. While gains have been made for Aboriginal people, there is still a very long way to go’, says Gail Harradine, KHT Curatorial Manager, and lead exhibition curator.
The Koorie Heritage Trust acknowledges the assistance of the Women’s Art Register in bringing this exhibition together.
The Koorie Heritage Trust is proud to acknowledge exhibition partners Creative Victoria, City of Melbourne, and the Indigenous Visual Arts and Industry Support Program.
Seen and Unseen: Expressions of Koorie Identity opens Saturday 7 August until 21 November 2021. Koorie Heritage Trust, Yarra Building, Federation Square. www.koorieheritagetrust.com.au