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Indepth Arts News:

"Your place or mine?: Fiona Foley and Simryn Gill"
2002-09-11 until 2002-10-12
Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
Brisbane, QL, AU

In September the IMA is proud to present the work of Fiona Foley and Simryn Gill in a show entitled "Your place or mine?" In the exhibition both of these artists explore their links to their place of birth and culture and the way it is presented. As part of this unique exhibition, Fiona Foley, a Badtjala woman of Fraser Island, presents photographs from the various series she has created over the previous decade. These images, taken by the artist and in some instances featuring her, aim to redefine and reclaim the photographic history of indigenous people.

Fiona states, "It’s about putting Indigenous people up front in the world in every way – in fashion, in exhibitions, and in the gallery system."

In the series "Badtjala Woman" & "Native Blood" Fiona directly addresses the way her ancestors were ‘recorded’ for anthropological and archival purposes. The artist is photographed topless from the waist up, variously adorned with necklaces and baskets. Yet it is the artist /sitter who is in total control of the image and what is being portrayed; and it is a quiet sense of dignity and reclamation that radiates from these images.

In "Wild Times Call", the artist posed with the Seminole people of Montana challenges the way these indigenous Americans are typically photographed. By doing this, Fiona uses photography to show the underlying tenacity and persistence of the Seminole people and culture and in doing so elevates preconceived perceptions.

Other works of Fiona’s to be included in this exhibition are "Survival" and "Ya Kri".

"Unlike my forebears, my discarded symbols may possibly leave a mark on this urban landscape. The viewers have to draw their own conclusions. Yet I live in hope that my heroine could be your heroine, as she defies all odds with an unspoken eloquence of spunk." Fiona Foley

Simryn Gill’s work is both haunting and evocative. In the series of photographs entitled "A small town at the turn of the century", we see people calmly posed, positioned towards the camera all with various tropical fruits on their heads obscuring their features. There is almost an immediate reaction to these images of mirth, yet they demand further thought. Are these people being classified like the fruit? Like people that have been classified through the process of physiognomy these people have in a sense been relegated to a type, which is something that everybody does immediately when they view another human being. By tapping into the human instinct to judge by appearance, Simryn’s images have the uncanny knack of giving us insight into an intrinsic human behaviour.

In "Dalam" it is the interiors that are explored and photographed. These images, although devoid of humans, still bear an undeniable trace of their presence. Over a three month period in 2001 the artist traveled and recorded the interiors of 258 homes in Malaysia where she was born and raised. To allow an artist into their homes denotes a certain amount of pride and ownership of their abode, indeed these homes are a reflection of their owners’ tastes and ideals. Yet could you, if you didn’t know that these images are of Malaysian homes, immediately specify the culture or the country? Simryn’s photos explore much more than just domestic spaces and they ask questions about both the inhabitants and the viewers that are not easily answered.

"Dalam, Malay for ‘inside’, ‘interior’, ‘deep’ is based on the dichotomous relationship between inside and outside – the physical as well as the psychological." Excerpt from ‘Simyrn Gill Selected Work’.

Fiona Foley,
Wild Times Call 4,
Photo: Peter Foe2001

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