Cairns Art Gallery

current exhibitions

David Griggs
Friday, 28 September, 2018 to Sunday, 25 November, 2018

David GRIGGS, Frat of the Obese 14 2009 acrylic on canvas 110 x 129 cm. Courtesy Hayman Collection, Melbourne

BETWEEN NATURE AND SIN is the first major survey exhibition of works by leading Australian artist David Griggs. Griggs was born in Sydney in 1975, but moved to the Philippines more than ten years ago. Through painting, photography and film, his works document the everyday, intimate, chance moments of his friends and strangers in order to expose and explore the human condition.

Through portraiture, Griggs explores the darker undercurrents of human existence, drawing on political imagery, subversive media, local histories and personal experiences. He is noted for his bold approach to revealing social hierarchies and underground culture, particularly the raw underbelly of society in the Philippines.

While his work is often collaborative, involving close engagement with local communities, Griggs remains sensitive to the ethical and moral obligations that this process demands. 

This is particularly evident in his major feature film COWBOY COUNTRY, which ispresented for the first time in this exhibition. The filmfollows the story of a kidnapped American Filipino teenager held captive for ransom and was produced collaboratively with the community. Set in a fishing village on a remote island of the Philippines, the film features leading Filipino actors Soliman Cruz, the late Dante Perez and Melanie Tejano.

Megan Monte, curator of the exhibition, notes that:

Manila has challenged, broken and rebuilt Griggs in countless ways, as have his collaborations. This is encapsulated in the series of work presented in BETWEEN NATURE AND SIN, Griggs’ most ambitious and challenging project to date.

Hank Willis Thomas
Friday, 12 October, 2018 to Sunday, 25 November, 2018

HANK WILLIS THOMAS Overtime 2011 5:00 minutes, music by Ditto Courtesy of the artist © Hank Willis Thomas. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Born in 1976 in Plainfield, New Jersey, and raised in New York, Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual photographer whose work addresses issues of identity, politics, popular culture, and mass media pertaining to American race relations. He has been described as “a tough and thoughtful young artist whose images confront our sense of memory and history”.

Overtime 2011 is a video work that was first shown as part of a major exhibition Strange Fruit at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Connecticut and Corcoron Gallery, Washington, in 2012. Works in the exhibition explored how the concepts of spectacle and display connect to notions of African American identity.

Strange Fruit (from the powerful protest song popularised by singer Billie Holiday) examined two forms of spectacle—the culture of lynching and the commodification that surrounds professional sports—and analysed their impact on the presentation and the perception of the black body. By juxtaposing contemporary representations of athletes with historic images of lynching victims, the exhibition asked viewers to consider, remember, and question the transformation of black bodies into souvenirs and commercial objects, and showed how identity can be created through both historic and contemporary images.

Overtime 2011 depicts a lone basketball player who appears to be eerily suspended, frozen in mid-motion, with the ball hoop above him resembling a hangman’s noose. It is a powerful image that evokes an immediate response from the viewer. 

Contemporary Illustration
Friday, 23 November, 2018 to Sunday, 13 January, 2019

Harry BATE, Banana Bender 2018, gouache and pen on paper, 76 x 56cm. Courtesy of the artist

At the turn of the twentieth century there was a global explosion of pleasure travel due to more accessible modes of transport, and a new genre of lithographic travel posters emerged. In the 1930s and 40s the Queensland Government Tourism Bureau produced destinations posters that promoted Far North Queensland as a tropical paradise. Destination North is a contemporary take on this advertising campaign.

For this exhibition, the Gallery has worked with and commissioned seven early career artists to design a series of illustrations that offer contemporary interpretations of Cairns as a lifestyle and holiday destination.

Harry Bate’s works playfully locate black and white characters within the fronds of lush foliage and fruits, while Yixy Ruan looks at the region through a selection of exotic fruits and juices, using traditional Chinese inks and styles of painting. For Mark Daniels it is the characters of the far north café set, and for Jonathon McBurnie it is the architecture of frontier pubs that speak of “life in the north”.

In contrast, Caroline Mudge represents iconic scenes through a retro lens of reductive pastel colours, while Brontë Naylor focuses on some of the grittier yet endearing aspects of Cairns, and for Olivia Azzopardi it is the unique biodiversity of the region that she has sought to capture in her fine ink drawings.

Destination North presents the creative underside of one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations.

Friday, 30 November, 2018 to Sunday, 3 February, 2019

SRIWHANA SPONG, New Zealand b.1979, Costume for a mourner (still) 2010, Hard Drive (transferred from standard-definition video): 8:22 minutes, black and white, sound, ed. 3/3. Purchased 2011. John Darnell Bequest. Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

Physical Video features key video works from the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), which focus on performance and theatricality in video art in Australia from the 1970s through to the present day.

Speaking about the exhibition, Chris Saines, Director of QAGOMA explains,

“These vibrant and thought-provoking works demonstrate how artists use the physical gestures and actions of the human body to illustrate social, political and aesthetic issues.”

Many of the works in the exhibition point to a resurgence in direct-to-camera performance, a process that enables artists to document themselves within the privacy of their studios. Feeling the burn 2006 by James Oram, and Walking the wall 2014 by Angela Tiatia, recall the performance-based works of the 1960s and 1970s by internationally acclaimed artists such as Dennis Oppenheim and Rebecca Horn, who used their bodies as the primary instrument to critique conventions, often by pushing their bodies to incredible extremes.

Other artists in the exhibition use the body as a conduit to explore history, culture and identity within larger theatrical settings. In Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam, towards the complex - for the courageous, the curious, and the cowards 2001 by Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, cyclo drivers drag their pedal carts across the seabed to symbolise the risk and struggle of refugees in postwar Vietnam. Gymnasium 2010 by Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont pits ideas of physical perfection against questions of Australian national identity, and in Static electricity of cat's cradle 2007 by Donghee Koo, a simple game for children simulates the awkwardness of human interaction.

Through small gestures and modes of performance, the works in Physical Video invite audiences to think about the use of physicality to explore ideas beyond the action itself.

Fruit Cartons of Far North Queensland
Friday, 30 November, 2018 to Sunday, 6 January, 2019

Sean RAFFERTY, Tablelands fruit cartons, digital image (detail), 2018

Cartonography (a combination of carton and cartography) is a project by Sydney-based artist Sean Rafferty, which involves the collection, mapping and cataloguing of Australian fruit and vegetable cartons.

Rafferty is an eclectic artist who has collected more than 800 cartons and is driven by a desire to explore connections between objects, and their relationship with mythologies, histories and the landscapes from which they come. His recent installation at the Cairns Art Gallery is based on fruit and vegetable cartons from the Far North Queensland region, which he sees as place markers that convey stories about the people who grow, harvest, store and transport produce, from the farm or orchard to the consumer.

In 2018, Rafferty undertook a research visit to Far North Queensland and collected data, stories and information that have informed this exhibition. Rafferty believes that the process of collecting fresh produce cartons is an opportunity to connect with a farmer and/or a community, and that, as well as a device to transport produce from the land to a city, the carton can be a device to access and contain their stories.

Rafferty’s complex and visually engaging installation of tropical fruit and vegetable cartons encourages audiences to think about the many stories, histories and experiences that have been so much a part of their creation and purpose.

To coincide with and support the Gallery’s exhibition, from Friday 30 November to Sunday 2 December Dimbullah State School will hold a satellite Rafferty-inspired exhibition at Rusty’s Market on Grafton Street. For more information about Cartonography and the artist’s collection visit

Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey
Thursday, 15 November, 2018 to Sunday, 10 February, 2019

Goobalathaldin Dick ROUGHSEY Lardil people Australia 1920-85, The Birth of Goobalathaldin 1984, Synthetic polymer paint on board, 132 x 100 cm. Private collection © Dick Goobalathaldin Roughsey/ Copyright Agency, 2018 Photograph: Natasha Harth, QAGOMA

Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey: Stories of this Land is the first major retrospective exhibition celebrating the work and life of Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey, and is delivered in partnership with the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA).

The exhibition brings together seventy works from major institutions and private lenders including barks, paintings, ceremonial and historical objects, draft illustrations from the Rainbow Serpent children’s book and three story book films; The Rainbow Serpent (1975), The Giant Devil Dingo (1977) and The Quinkans (1982).

Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey was a figurehead and pioneer of Indigenous art and culture. Throughout his career, Roughsey explored traditional practices, stories and ceremonies, social effects caused by missionary activity, everyday life on Mornington Island, and his journey through Cape York with Percy Trezise and Ray Crooke.