Michael Riley (1960-2004) was one of the most important contemporary Indigenous visual artists of the past two decades and his contribution to the urban-based Indigenous visual arts industry was substantial. His emotive film and video work challenged non-Indigenous perceptions of Indigenous experience, particularly of the most disenfranchised communities in the south-eastern region of Australia.
Michael Riley: sights unseen reveals the prolific talents of a quiet observer whose photomedia, video and film continues to have a profound effect on Australia’s contemporary representation and comprehension of Indigenous Australia.
This landmark exhibition is the first major survey of Michael Riley’s work and has been organised by the National Gallery of Australia, on view from 14 July to 16 October, before touring Regional Galleries of Australia as part of the Gallery’s travelling exhibitions program.
Brenda L. Croft, Senior Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art has worked closely with Riley’s family, friends and colleagues to draw together a comprehensive body of work, charting the vision and experience of one of the country’s most significant visual artists, chronicling a period of intense cultural development and achievement.
Considered one of Australia’s most important contemporary artists, many of his films won awards at national and international festivals. Riley’s work is represented in various major public and private collections throughout Australia.
Michael Riley: sights unseen will not only profile Riley’s most recognised photomedia, films and video work, but will also present some images previously unseen in the public domain. It will be accompanied by a monograph, illustrated in full colour, with text by renowned Indigenous and non-Indigenous, Australian contributors.
I want to get away from the ethnographic image of Aboriginal people in magazines. A lot of images you see … are like Aboriginal people living in humpies, or drunk on the street or …marching in protests. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I want to … show young Aboriginal people in the cities today; a lot of them [are] very sophisticated and [a] lot of them very glamorous. A lot of them have been around the world and have an air of sophistication which you don’t see coming across in newspapers and [television] programs. I’m just talking about positive things really, positive images of Aboriginal people. Michael Riley, 1993