GAGPROJECTS is proud to present works by Pierre Mukeba, Julia Robinson, Darren Siwes, and James Tylor for the 21st year of SALA Festival. These four exceptional Adelaide based artists represent part of the complex and rich constellation of cultural backgrounds that make South Australia today. With very different motivations that reflect each of the artist’s personal backgrounds and fascinations or experiences and struggles, they embody our very specific way of being and seeing the world, from our multicultural and tolerant place to which we have arrived by embracing our errors and strengths in our past and our present. From Robinson’s finely crafted objects reflecting our relationship with faith and rituals, to the experience of pathos in Mukeba’s images, or the recognition of the cracks in our foundations from the poignant works of Siwes and the resistance of our original first culture from Tylor’s images, they all are beautiful representations of what we are as Australians.
Mukeba was born in 1995 in the shadows of civil war in Bukavu in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. At an early age he, along with his family, was forced to flee to a refugee camp in Zambia where food was scarce. His mother discovered that her brother was doing well in Harare, the capital Zimbabwe and he invited them to come and stay. For a brief moment life was stable until the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, ordered that anybody who wasn’t a national of Zimbabwe was to be arrested. In desperation Mukeba’s mother approached the Australian embassy for asylum. Finally, in 2006, the family were granted residency in Adelaide.
Mukeba’s passion for art grew from the period of living with his uncle. “I used to watch him build sculptures and draw”, he says. “He taught me how to draw farms, trees and people. The basics. He inherited his talent from my grandfather, who was a famous artist in Congo. My uncle inspired me to draw more until I found it had grown into a passion. With my art I have found my own technique of drawing. I learn mostly through experimenting as I go.”
Julia Robinson is an artist working in the field of sculpture and installation. Her work reflects an interest in religion, the afterlife and death and how humans address these concerns through ritual. Drawing on established belief systems and a multitude of sources including myths, fairy tales and European superstition and folklore, Robinson’s work explores our discomfort with the finality of death. Recent works have invoked fertility rituals and motifs of resurrection and are infused with an air of sexual candour.
Since graduating from Adelaide Central School of Art in 2002, Julia has exhibited regularly both in Adelaide and interstate and has been the recipient of a number of ArtsSA Project Development grants and an Australia Council New Work Grant for Established Artists. Julia is currently lecturing at Adelaide Central School of Art and works from Switchboard Studios in Norwood. Her work is held in the Art Gallery of South Australia and private collections in Australia.
The influence of Darren Siwes' art continues to hinge around conflicting cultural hierarchies and class delineations in the context of place and identity. Siwes sees his work residing somewhere between truth and hypothetical, between reality and the imaginary and describes his work as 'Hypothetical Realism' where life in the real and life in the ‘what if’ can be intertwined. Within this context Siwes embellishes the truth by blurring the boundaries between opposing poles, to distort truth from untruths and to stir the comfortable in with the uncomfortable.
“To date, the artist’s signature style has been that of physically inscribing himself into the landscape as a ghostly or real Indigenous presence, and in moving beyond this to the landscape of the mind, the imaginary, Siwes is charting new territory. He is also moving into the private sphere and, as dramaturge rather than subject, explores restrictive bourgeois ideas of colour. Ideas many prefer to keep behind closed doors.”
(excerpt from Mum, I want to be Brown by Catherine Speck, 2006)
James Tylor (Possum) was born in Mildura, Victoria. He spent his childhood in Menindee in far west New South Wales, and then moved to Kununurra and Derby in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in his adolescent years. From 2003 to 2008, James trained and worked as a carpenter in Australia and Denmark. In 2011 he completed a bachelor of Visual Arts (Photography) at the South Australian School of Art in Adelaide and in 2012 he completed Honours in Fine Arts (Photography) at the Tasmanian School of Art in Hobart. He returned to Adelaide in 2013 and completed a Masters in Visual Art (Photography) at the South Australian School of Art. James currently lives and works in Adelaide.
James’ artistic practice examines concepts around cultural identity in Australian contemporary society and social history. He explores Australian cultural representations through his multi-cultural heritage, which comprises Nunga (Kaurna), Māori (Te Arawa) and European (English, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, Iberian and Norwegian) Australian ancestry. James’ work focuses largely on the 19th century history of Australia and its continual effect on present day issues surrounding cultural identity in Australia.
James’ artistic practice specialises in experimental and historical photographic processes. He uses a hybrid of analogue and digital photographic techniques to create contemporary artworks that reference Australian society and history. The processes he employs are the physical manipulation of digital photographic printing, such as the manual hand-colouring of digital prints or the application of physical interventions to the surfaces of digital prints. James also uses the historical 19th century photographic process of the Becquerel Daguerreotype with the aid of modern technology to create new and contemporary Daguerreotypes. Photography was historically used to document Aboriginal culture and the European colonisation of Australia. James is interested in these unique photographic processes to re-contextualise the representation of Australian society and history.