Ritual – the past in the present: Cairns Art Gallery

Phuong Ngo

15 May - 21 Aug 2021

Ritual: the past in the present extends the Gallery’s research interest in contemporary art practices that explore narratives around issues of Australian Indigenous and global black identity in the world’s tropic zone.
This research explores the many complex narratives, histories, traditions, beliefs and issues which inform art produced by contemporary artists in Australia and other cultures in these regions.

The defining characteristic of ritual, as a recurrent act based on the concept of passage and transformation to bring the past into the present, is investigated through artworks that engage with social, divinatory and cyclical rituals. Like history, rituals are complex and can be framed around different ways of perceiving and interpreting reality, imagination, hearsay and fact.

Specifically, works in this exhibition explore relationships between contemporary Australian Indigenous art and ritual within the global context of transcultural ritual practices in the Asia Pacific region. Together they respond to the practice, processes and performative nature of rituals and unpack the politics and complex histories that are embedded within ritual practices.

The exhibition broadly comprises works that respond to three main themes – life cycles, healing and renewal, and spiritual practices. Together these themes encompass traditional child naming rituals, initiation, marriage, death and funeral ceremonies, healing rituals and the medicinal use of natural materials, body adornment, scarification, song, dance, drumming, repetitive writing and intoning. They also investigate different ways of making sacrificial and other offerings as an act of celebration and contrition, as well as connectivity and communication with ancestral beings and spirits who continue to guide and shape the world of the present.

From the outset, artists selected for Ritual embraced the exhibition concept, and welcomed the opportunity to complete newly commissioned works, or to make existing works available for the exhibition. The exhibition was originally planned for 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Gallery extends its appreciation to all the artists and lenders for their understanding and willingness to accommodate the delay to its presentation.

Simone Arnol | Elisa Jane Carmichael | Janet Fieldhouse | Carl Fourmile | Dale Harding  | Naomi Hobson  | Heather Wunjarra Koowootha | Peggy Kasabad Lane | Arthur Koo’ekka Pambegan Jnr  | Grace Lillian Lee | Hayley Matthew | Stephen George Page AO  | Alair Pamgeban | Brian Robinson | Joel Sam | Bernard Singleton Jnr | Dr Christian Thompson AO | Abdul Abdullah | Jumaadi | Trina Lealavaa | Taloi Havini | Vilimone Baleilevuka Mataiwai | Phuong Ngo | Chan-Kyong Park | Tabuadrau Ratabua | Koji Ryui | Greg Semu | Adi Vuya Talemaikadavu | Angela Tiatia | Michael Toisuta | Charwei Tsai | Unknown artists