Rural Utopias Forum

Rural Utopias Forum

To mark the opening of Rural Utopias at AGWA, artists, regional community hosts and collaborators will come together to reflect upon their experiences living, working and creating in regional and remote Western Australia.

Artists spent twelve weeks in regional and remote WA areas, hosted by local arts organisations or communities. Through running workshops, mentoring emerging arts workers, collaborating with local artists or participating in existing community activities, artists became embedded in the social fabric of the town. Through these relationships formed, they worked with communities to develop a body of work that responded to the local context and was exhibited locally.

This rich and varied experience is captured in Rural Utopias at AGWA. As well as presenting their artworks, artists were invited by AGWA to respond to a work from the State Art Collection, with the goal of creating a critical and imaginative dialogue between existing and new works. In doing so, the artists and communities reflected on the relationship between an institutional State Art Collection and the socially-engaged, responsive and community-led activities undertaken as part of their residencies. This forum brings together the artists and community hosts to reflect upon their experiences and consider the connection between institutions and social practice.

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Hannah Mathews, Director/CEO, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts
Hannah is Director/CEO of the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA). Over the last twenty years she has held key curatorial positions at Monash University Museum of Art, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Next Wave, The South Project and the Biennale of Sydney.

Hannah’s recent curatorial projects include Shelley Lasica: WHEN I AM NOT THERE (2022); Vivienne Binns: On and through the surface (2022); D Harding: Through a lens of visitation (2021); Agatha Gothe-Snape: The Outcome is Certain (2020); Shapes of Knowledge, MUMA (2019); and Alicia Frankovich & Lili Reynaud Dewar (2018).

Hannah graduated with a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne in 2002 and has completed curatorial residencies in New York, Berlin, Tokyo and Venice. She has taught in curatorial programs at Melbourne University, Monash University and RMIT University, Melbourne and has held various board positions, including National Association for the Visual Arts, City of Melbourne Arts & Culture and International Art Space, Perth. Her publication, To Note: Notation Across Disciplines won the inaugural Cornish Family Book Prize for Art and Design Publishing in 2018.


Gary Cooper (WA)
Gary was born in Kalgoorlie and is from the Wongutha, Nanatjarra, Tjalkurrtjarra and Pirni/Darlot people. Gary is a graduate of the WA Academy of Performing Arts and has enjoyed a successful career in film, Television and Theatre spanning and has enjoyed working on many projects. Some highlights include: Best director in a documentary/drama for his film “Sugar Bag” at the WA Screen Awards, Honourable Mention at the Imaginative Film Festival Toronto, Canada for his film “Talk About “Walkabout“ Gary has also toured nationally and internationally with various theatre productions. Gary enjoys spending time with people, out bush and particularly his little dog Bubbly.

Jo Darbyshire (WA) with Andrea Williams (WA)
Jo Darbyshire (b.1961) is a fifth generation West Australian living and working in Walyalup/Fremantle. Darbyshire’s abstract paintings often reference the social and environmental history of place and aim to suggest a poetic, sensory connection. She also has an interest in creating exhibitions that incorporate strategies from the visual arts and social history museums. In 2002 she worked with Nyoongar artist Andrea Williams on the Proclamation Day Arch at the WA Museum. In 2003 she created the ground-breaking exhibition The Gay Museum, at the WA Museum. In 2019 she was invited to join the TILT programme at Heathcote Gallery and created the exhibition Tales of the Surreal, Stories from the Oral History Collection, Heathcote Hospital. Darbyshire exhibits regularly with Art Collective WA and her artwork is held in all major public institutions in WA, and in private collections, nationally and internationally.

Andrea Williams (b.1971) is a Nyoongar artist born on Whadjuk country, with family connections to Goreng, Menang, Wilman, Balladong, Mirning and Wudjari groups and English, Scottish and Dutch heritage. Andrea also has a background in documentary filmmaking and sound recording with the Film & Television Institute of WA. From 1994-2000 Andrea worked as a Production Assistant, Director of Photography and Sound Recordist on many films and videos including 'Artists Up Front' for Gary Lee in Darwin, 'Buffalo Legends', a documentary about the Buffalo Football Club in Darwin, 'Ngango Battas Moorditcher' (Sunshine, Living, Strength) a video about Claisebrook Cove, Archie Roach’s tour of Northam and York (1997), Sally Morgan’s Play 'King Hit' for Yirra Yarkin Aboriginal Theatre Company (1997), Wadumbah Aboriginal Dance Company’s promotional video, WA Museum’s 'Katta Djinoong- The first peoples of WA' exhibition, and 'Taking the Children' (WA’s Stolen Generations) for UWA and Murdoch University’s history departments, and with SBS Independent, Sydney.

Richard Davy (WA)
Farming for more than 20 years, Richard Davy manages a 5000-acre organic certified oat and cattle operation in Wellstead. His farming focus has been on quality food production without degrading his farming system and soil resources. Richard is also a leader in revegetation and the production of biological fertiliser to replace synthetic fertilisers, and he has hosted workshops to encourage innovation and improve knowledge of soil biology and regenerative farming. Richard is also a published poet and photographer, sharing his experiences of working closely with the land.

Georgie Mattingley (NT)
Georgie Mattingley works predominantly with photography, video and painting. Her practice uses colour and beauty to make society’s hidden spaces more visible. By visually transforming these spaces, her work unravels the value systems that repress them and proposes a more holistic acceptance of realities that Western society encourages us to avoid. Her exhibitions have occupied unique public spaces, including TOPIAS III installed at the Warrnambool Base Hospital (2017), KCAT2018 held within a decommissioned foundry in Kyneton (2018) and WE♥ABATTOIR that proliferated across outdoor and advertising spaces around Melbourne as part for the Next Wave Festival (2014). Mattingley has also exhibited in notable galleries throughout Australia, including Centre for Contemporary Photography (2018), the Shepparton Art Museum (2016) and Fremantle Arts Centre (2017). She has been the recipient of the National Gallery of Victoria Women's Association Award (2014) and the Bayside Local Art Prize (2018).

Elizabeth Pedler (WA)
Elizabeth Pedler is a socially engaged artist, focused on a dialogic approach to collaboration. Interested in the range of participation possible in art, Elizabeth's practice spans from playful and interactive installations to collaborative relational aesthetics. Identity, ecology, and community involvement are areas of particular focus, and have led to significant artistic development in her recent arts practice, engaging with audiences through the sharing of experiences and storytelling. Elizabeth’s work has been shown at the Disrupted Festival of Ideas, Social Impact Festival, Tarrawarra Museum of Art, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Fringe World Festival (Perth), Harvest Music Festival, Melbourne Fringe Festival, and Gertrude Street Projection Festival, amongst others. She was awarded a PhD (Art) by Curtin University in 2018, and is a recipient of the Australia Council ArtStart Grant, and the WA Department of Culture and the Arts - Young People and the Arts Youth Fellowship. Elizabeth is an art program coordinator at Alinea Recreation Centre, working with artists with diverse physical and neurological disabilities. She also teaches Anthropology and Sociology, in the school of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry at Curtin University, Perth.

Ana Tiquia (VIC)
Ana Tiquia is an artist and futurist who lives and works in Naarm / Melbourne. Integrating participatory art and performance, design, and futures practice, Ana creates public interventions: works that invite dialogue with ‘the future’. She is interested in how practices and infrastructures make worlds, and aims to expand possibility in the present by generating diverse future imaginaries. Ana’s work intervenes in workplace, institutional, and everyday practices. Through these interventions Ana aims to seed diverse futures of data and technology; work and labour, and energy, material, and multispecies relations. Ana's most recent work has been commissioned by MOD. (Museum of Discovery, Adelaide), ANAT SPECTRA22, SPACED and the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA). Ana holds a BA in Fine Arts, a Master of Strategic Foresight, and was 2022 Berry Family Fellow at State Library Victoria.

Katie Witt, Learning & Engagement Manager, The Cannery Arts Centre
Katie has been at the Cannery Arts Centre for 2 ½ years and coordinates two workshop programs and the artist in residence program. Previously a high school science teacher, Katie has always been drawn to event management and not for profits. After committee roles on consecutive Festival of the Wind events, Katie then operated an event equipment hiring and styling business for four years before taking up her current role. Events and community inspire Katie and the Cannery Arts Centre is an incredible place where creatives and community connect, with a focus on diversity, inclusivity, education, mindfulness and connection. Katie is most happy seeing community members engaging in events, workshops, and exhibitions and enjoys connecting artists with the community, to create opportunities for all.

On Saturday 27 August, the Gallery is open 10am-3pm only as we prepare for the AGWA Foundation Gala supporting women in the arts. Some exhibition access will be disrupted with two Tracks We Share ground floor galleries closed. AGWA Rooftop bar will be closed, reopening at 2pm Sunday. Details