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EXHIBITION | Opening of AFTM Emerging Artists Exhibition

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The AFTM Emerging Artists Exhibition was opened by the Premier and Minister for the Arts, Hon. Annastacia Palaszczuk, who commended all the artists and spoke of the Labor Government’s commitment to arts and culture. The Premier invited the artists to share the podium with her as she opened the exhibition (pictured above), later taking time to meet each of the artists and learn about their experiences and work. As curator of the exhibition and mentor to the artists Harbinger’s John Armstrong also offered some well received words about art, creativity and storytelling.

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I acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and pay my respects to the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Elders past and present who share their wisdoms with us in such a generous way.

I acknowledge our guests and in particular our Premier, it’s an indication of the importance her government places on the arts that she is here with us tonight. Thank you Premier.

And I acknowledge and thank our artists who are generously sharing their creative works with us and allowing us, as viewers, to experience the world a little differently. Each of the seven artists was selected from Art from the Margin’s 2014 Brisbane Festival exhibition at City Hall and I’ve been privileged to work with them over the last few months as a mentor and hopefully been of some assistance to their professional development as they pursue their careers.

To give some context to the show and to the creativity of these artists I’d like you to consider a room – not this room but a room without any lights. Now this room contains an elephant. Five people spend some time in this room – in the dark. The five people are; a plumber, a sailor, a plasterer, a stonemason and a philosopher. None of these five people have ever encountered an elephant before and each one of them gropes about in the dark until they touch an elephant bit. When they have left the dark room they are asked of their experience – what did they think was within this particular room?

The Plumber was amazed at the extreme flexibility of the piping he had found. He’d felt the elephant’s trunk. The Sailor was quite impressed with the incredibly strong sailcloth she’d discovered. She’d felt the elephant’s ear. The Plasterer was pleased that someone had made such lovely textured wall surfaces. He’d felt the elephant’s side. However the Stonemason was not very enthusiastic about the lumpy and irregular column he had investigated. He had felt one of the elephant’s legs. And the Philosopher, well the Philosopher complained that no matter how hard she had pulled the cord the lights just would not go on. She had been tugging the elephant’s tail.

Each of these people had brought their own cultural experience and expectation to the elephant – and therefore each had encountered something quite different and unique to themselves.

I suggest that we all construct our own world view from the material of our own histories and sometimes this world view may have little to do with reality.

The artworks created by these artists show us some different realities and I thank all of them for allowing us to enjoy the way they remake the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Picasso said, “everything you can imagine is real” and another great artist Groucho Marx said, ““Well, art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.” Somewhere in there is an important concept I’m sure!

Seeing and hearing a story are ways that creativity adds to the understanding of our own culture and the culture of others – when we listen and see good things and bad things, funny things and sad things, we start to think and feel outside of our own experiences – we become better able to make some sense of the confusion that sometimes seems to surround the environment we all live in. The sharing of an artist’s work is an act of generosity and should be the starting point for a conversation – art is a catalyst for interaction – after all we are all in this together!

So, thank you to all the artists – Levi, Irene, Gary, Glynn, Matthew, Laura and Maureen – your stories are unique and this show is an important milestone in your creative careers. These artists now invite you to have a conversation, firstly with their remarkable creative works and then, with them as artists with so much to say and so much to offer to enrich our cultural life here in Brisbane. Enjoy the work, it’s all for sale so why not buy some and not only support these emerging artists but also enliven and expand your own environment.

Thank you.

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2 Comments»

  Sandra Angus wrote @

This is an awesome event and John’s analogy was interesting. Great work all involved including the artists! Regards, Sandy.

  lcarroli wrote @

Thanks Sandy. It was a lovely event.


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