DOMINION brings together six contemporary artists with artworks from the collections of the University of Melbourne, and The Johnston Collection, to reinvigorate notions of dominion as a space for power which exists beyond confines of time and the singular notion of humanity.
Abdul-Rahman Abdullah (b. 1977) is an artist based on Wadjuk Nyungar country, on a cattle property in the Peel region of Western Australia. Working primarily in sculpture and installation, he explores the intersections of identity, culture, and the natural world. Living and working in an agricultural environment, his practice offers alternative perspectives across diverse, and often disparate communities. Since graduating from Curtin university in 2012, Abdul-Rahman has exhibited widely around Australia, notably at the Adelaide Biennial 2016 and 2022 (AGSA), The National 2019 (MCA) and Tarrawarra Biennial 2023. His work is held in public, corporate, university and private collections. Abdullah is a member of the Council for The National Gallery of Australia.
Safdar Ahmed (b. 1975) is an artist, writer and educator who lives and practices on the traditional lands of the Gadigal, Wangal and Guringai peoples of what is otherwise known by its colonial name as Sydney. He works across a range of mediums, including drawing, graphic narratives, painting, musical performance, and installation. Ahmed’s art practice focusses on issues of representation and belonging, referencing personal history, graphic storytelling, cultural exegesis, and Muslim tradition. In 2010 he completed his PhD with the Department of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Sydney. His dissertation, which linked the work of various Muslim reformist thinkers to contemporary paradigms of modernity, was published by IB Tauris beneath the title Reform and Modernity in Islam. He is a founding member of the Refugee Art Project, and member of eleven, a collective of contemporary Muslim Australian artists, curators, and writers. In 2015 Safdar won a Walkley Award in the Artwork category for his documentary webcomic, Villawood: Notes from an Immigration Detention Centre. That comic was expanded and adapted into the graphic novel, Still Alive, which was published in 2021 by Twelve Panels Press. In May 2022, Still Alive won the Multicultural Award and Book of the Year in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books for the Children’s Book Council of Australia and earned Gold in the Comic Arts of Australia Award. Ahmed was one of the fourteen international artists commissioned to present at documenta fifteen, in Kassel Germany.
Richard Bell (b. 1953) is a member of the Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Gurang Gurang communities. Bell lives and works in Meanjin, also known by its colonial name as Brisbane. He works across a variety of media including painting, installation, performance, and video. One of Australia’s most significant artists, Bell’s work explores the complex artistic and political problems of Western, colonial and Indigenous art production.
Bell grew out of a generation of Aboriginal activists and has remained committed to the politics of Aboriginal emancipation and self-determination. Bell is the recipient of numerous significant awards and prizes. In 2003 he was the recipient of the Telstra National Aboriginal Art Award, establishing him as an important Australian artistic figure. Bell is represented in major National and State collections and has exhibited in a number of solo exhibitions at important institutions across Australia, the USA and Europe. In 2013 he was included in the National Gallery of Canada’s largest show of International Indigenous art, Sakàhan, and at the Fifth Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. In 2014, Bell’s solo exhibition Embassy opened at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth. In 2015, Bell was a finalist in the Archibald Prize, and presented a collaborative exhibition of new work with Emory Douglas at Milani Gallery. He exhibited Embassy (2013-ongoing) as part of Performa 15, New York City, the 16th Jakarta Biennale, curated by Charles Esche, and the 20th Biennale of Sydney. In 2022, Bell again presented his major ongoing work Embassy (2013–ongoing) at documenta fifteen, Kassel, Germany and at Tate Modern, London in 2023.
Penny Byrne (b. 1965) is an artist and ceramics conservator based in Naarm (otherwise known by its colonial name as Melbourne) whose work is deeply engaged in the world of contemporary political and social affairs. Byrne utilises a variety of mediums to produce sculptural works that express shock and outrage at our apathetic responses to atrocities around the world. Byrne creates work that asks us to reflect upon the way in which we passively consume images from the daily news and our social media feeds, turning away or flicking past when we are overwhelmed by the barbarities on view.
Byrne holds a Master of Fine Art from RMIT University and her work is held in public and private collections both locally and internationally, including the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Artbank National Collection, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, Deakin University Collection, Henning V. Claassen Collection (Germany), Horsham Regional Art Gallery, Museum of Australian Democracy, National Gallery of Victoria, Powerhouse Museum, RMIT University Art Collection, Shepparton Art Museum and Warrnambool Art Gallery.
Michael Riley (b. 1960 – d. 2004) is a Wiradjeri/Kamilaroi artist, whose photography and film works have been acknowledged as both groundbreaking and visionary. Riley began his career in 1982, formalising his interest in photography through his participation in workshops which were held at the Tin Sheds Gallery, University of Sydney. During this time Riley engaged in an auto-ethnographic style of portraiture as a way of defying the constant negative portrayals of ‘otherness’, intimately linking his portraits to the people he was mostly inspired by, his family and friends. Riley’s work was included in the landmark group exhibition of Indigenous photographers, NADOC’86 exhibition of Aboriginal and Islander photographers, which was held at the Aboriginal Artist Gallery, Sydney. The following year, Riley, along with nine other Indigenous artists, including Tracey Moffatt and Fiona Foley, established Boomalli Aboriginal Artist’s Co-operative on the lands of the Gadigal people in Redfern, Sydney, an important voice for urban-based Indigenous artists which remains in operation today. Riley’s Empire (1997) and Fly Blown (1998), a series of photographic prints, were shown at a collateral exhibition at the Venice Biennial in 1999. A major retrospective of Riley’s work was presented at the National Gallery of Australia in 2006, it later travelled to Monash University Art Museum, the National Gallery of Victoria, Dubbo Regional Gallery, Morree Plains Gallery and the Museum of Brisbane, ending its tour at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2008. Riley’s work continues to make a profound contribution to Australian art.
Hadieh Shafie (b. 1969) was born in Tehran, Iran and is currently based in the United States. Shafie constructs intricate designs with low-relief paper sculpture. Her compositions are reminiscent of traditional Middle Eastern art, while the artist hides hand-written and printed Farsi text within the folds of elaborate paper spirals. Shafie’s work is held in major institutional collections internationally including The Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA); The Victoria and Albert Museum (UK); The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); The British Museum (UK); and The Brooklyn Museum of Art (USA), amongst others. She holds an MFA in Imaging and Digital Arts from the University of Maryland (USA) and an MFA in Painting from Pratt Institute (USA). In 2011, Shafie was shortlisted for the prestigious Jameel Prize, Victoria and Albert Museum (UK) and in 2017 nominated for the Anonymous Was a Woman Award, New York Foundation of the Arts (USA).
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