Protest art takes centre stage at Newcastle Art Gallery
Now exhibiting at Newcastle Art Gallery is THE ART OF PROTEST a powerful exhibition featuring politically engaged artists both past and present and explores how artists use their work to highlight injustices and challenge perceptions.
From a political parody inspired by a pop music hit to works that make statements about climate change, asylum seekers, and feminism, the exhibition examines a cross-section of serious issues.
Curated by Newcastle Art Gallery Collection and Exhibitions Officer Lisa Kirkpatrick, works from the Gallery's own collection are exhibited alongside key works loaned from politically engaged artists who have been mixing art and activism throughout their careers.
The Art of Protest features works from local, national, and international artists who are responding to disaster and injustice, including Newcastle based artists Fiona Lee.
A political artist, and climate justice activist, works across non-violent direct action, installation, photography, and video with this particular exhibition inspired by the apocalyptic bushfires of 2020 as Fiona explains,
“My family home near Taree was destroyed during the 2020 fires, and to create the works I have utilised materials recovered from the ruins to highlight and protest against the government's inaction on climate change.”
Given the circumstances in which you procured the materials, was it quite an emotional experience to produce the artwork?
"Looking at the opportunities each material provided allowed me to experience them at arm's length. The hard times usually came when I had completed a piece. As I stood back to survey my work I was often moved to tears by the gravity of my experience losing the family home in the context of a heating planet. I know what’s coming down the line if we don’t act to address our climate change- it’s not an easy thing to sit with."
Did it help in anyway to process what happened?
The process of recovering, sifting and sorting the remnants of my burned down home was an intense kind of exposure therapy. This experience certainly allowed me time to process the trauma and channel it into something positive. Using this loss to draw attention to the existential threat of climate change and thinking about severe flooding, our dying reef, heating oceans and our fossil fuel subsided government - kept it all in perspective.
I also think about how the impacts of climate change are not experienced equally- we know that the people who contributed the least to the problem will suffer the most so I’m pretty privileged to be in the position of exhibiting in regional galleries and having the resources to buy new stuff.
You can sense the anger and frustration as well as sadness within each of your pieces, almost 2 years on, are those emotions still as raw today as what they were when you produced the work?
The two year anniversary of the loss of our home was this week (8th November) and despite the government’s empty promises of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, I’m still terrified of the future when my 4 year old child is my age. So yeah, I’m still frustrated by our government's inaction and will do everything I can to help achieve a safe future for us all.
The expansive exhibition showcases a variety of different artistic mediums including paintings, photography, linocut, sculpture, video and mixed media, which explore everything from worker's rights, to war, humanitarianism, colonialism, the Stolen Generation, animal welfare, HIV/AIDS awareness, and LGBTQI rights.
One of the most striking works from the exhibition is from Hunter Valley artist Dani Marti whose soft sculpture installation Orifices was created during a residency with the Galley of Modern Art, Glasgow. His work was to be shown at GoMA (Glasgow Museum of Modern Art) as a part of the sh[OUT]: Contemporary Art and Human Rights exhibition, however, a last minute decision by Culture & Sport Glasgow to cancel 3 out of 4 of Dani's artworks lead Dani to take a different course as he explained,
“The decision to cancel most of my exhibition negated the point of the 3-month residency with GoMA and Gay Men's Health. The project was aimed at reducing marginalization, social exclusion, homophobia, and HIV related stigma and would have helped so many HIV positive people - men and women and also the general community to become more tolerant and to overcome so many preconceptions about being HIV."
"The decision by Glasgow City Council to censor parts of the exhibition led the artist to instead undertake the guerrilla action of installing islands of blood red scourers throughout the city, not allowing already marginalised individuals and communities to be hidden away and silenced."
With artists having always played a pivotal role as a voice of protest, THE ART OF PROTEST is a powerful visual reminder of this and is a must-see over the summer months with the exhibition on display at Newcastle Art Gallery until 30 January 2022.
THE ART OF PROTEST
Where: Newcastle Art Gallery, 1 Laman St, Cooks Hill
When: 30 October 2021 - 30 January 2022
Time: 10am - 5pm Tuesday to Sunday, 7 days during school holidays
More Info: click here