Daniel Boyd: Bitter Sweet

Saturday, 24 June, 2017 to Sunday, 10 September, 2017

Daniel Boyd, Untitled (P13), 2013
Oil and archival glue on linen
214 x 300 cm
Collection of Gwen and Stewart Wallis AO, Bowral
Photographed by Jessica Maurer
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

This year the Cairns Art Gallery is presenting three diverse exhibitions for the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CAIF): Daniel Boyd: Bitter Sweet; Greg Semu: BLOOD RED; and Lei it on: Lei in contemporary art practice from the Torres Strait Islands – an exhibition presented in partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria.

Daniel Boyd’s exhibition, Bitter Sweet, is presented in partnership with CIAF and brings together major works from public and private collections round Australia, including a major work of the Yarrabah Church that was gifted to the Cairns Art Gallery by the artist.

Boyd was born in Cairns in 1982 and is one of Australia’s most innovative and exciting contemporary artists. His work questions the romantic notions that surround the birth of Australia and the ways in which our history continues to be dominated by Eurocentric views. The artworks selected for the exhibition explore the collective memory and journeys of the artist’s family of Pentecost Island (Vanuatu), and other South Sea Islander people to Far North Queensland, and the interconnected histories of his own Aboriginal ancestors.

Bitter Sweet explores narratives of the Pacific Islands as a ‘paradise’, and the life of Pacific Islanders in relation to slavery and the sugarcane industry. Together, works in the exhibition address the history of slavery in Far North Queensland that resulted in 60,000 South Sea Islander people being taken to work in sugarcane plantations from the mid-1800s and early 1900s, and the effect on descendants’ lives in Far North Queensland, including Boyd’s own family.

“Both sides of my family were taken and placed under state control… Because of the intervention from the state and church, any kind of connection to a traditional cultural understanding of a people was stopped. No one was allowed to practise any form of culture,” explains Boyd. For Boyd it is very important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to create dialogues from their own perspective to challenge the subjective history that has been created.

A fully illustrated online catalogue for the exhibition is available on the Gallery’s website. It includes an informative essay by renowned art historian and curator, Djon Mundine. Tony Ellwood, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, will officially open the Gallery’s three CIAF exhibitions at 6pm on Wednesday 12 July. At 11.30 on Thursday 13 July Daniel Boyd, together with fellow exhibiting artists, Greg Semu and Naomi Hobson, will give a free public talk at the Gallery.