AGWA Contemporary

AGWA Contemporary

Contemporary art encounters await across four galleries. Start your visit with a walk through the main contemporary gallery, presenting works from 1970 to today.

Experience sound works in Rise Sound Gallery, filmic works in Screen Space, and contemporary craft and design in AGWA Design.

This selective sampling of mainly Australian, and some international works, captures shifts of focus in art practice over the course of five decades, spanning this century and the last. Arranged in loose chronological and thematic groupings, these works show that contemporary art defies easy definitions or uniform organising conventions and is shaped by diverse influences, both local and global.

One of the themes

Human Figure, Myths and Politics

Narrative stories, poems, epic tales of love, loss and human ingenuity, as well as our shortcomings, have been the hallmark of what defines our kind’s creativity and a way of learning about the world. The works displayed in this section of the gallery all focus on the human figure as a conduit of symbols, hero status, myths, cultural references, fantasies and stereotypes across different cultures. The figures are characters in stories passing on traditions (Abdul Rahman Abdullah, Ali, Swarna and Manu Chitrakar, Oussuli, Thompson), telling of personal psychologies (Ballen, Davies, Gill, Johnson), gender and race politics (Abdullah brothers, Oussuli), wars (Ali, Manu Chitrakar) and age-long myths and legends (Ali, Davies, Johnson, Kentridge). They are monsters, charlatans and guardians, they are human, divine, disenfranchised and invisible, and all are part of our collective psyche.  

These artists show us a way we can reclaim and reinvent images in the spirit of peace. If these works seem odd, that may be their way of helping us see things differently, and looking at everything anew—from the lives of people in Pompeii, to the US invasion of Afghanistan, to local identity and race relations, to our own ability to question and reconstruct the world we live in. 

Works on display by: Farrah Oussuli (Iran), Swarna Chitrakar (India), Clare Davies (Australia), Taryn Gill (WA), Jess Johnson (New Zealand / Australia), Khadim Ali (Afghanistan / Australia), Manu Chitrakar (India), Abdul-Rahman Abdullah (WA), Abdul Abdullah (WA / NSW), Christian Thompson (Australia), Roger Ballen (South Africa), and William Kentridge (South Africa).

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Swarna Chitrakar’s full poem, Sishu Kanya, Girl child reads:

Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

I place before you a few words about the worth of the girl-child.

Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

On the birth of the girl-child, the parents lament,
All neglect her why, O ignorant ones?

Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

When the girl-child is born, why should anyone neglect her? 
When the girl-child is born, why should anyone neglect her? 
Sweet as jiggery, she too is a part of my very being.

Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

Soon after the girl-child is born, hold her to her mother’s breast,
Soon after the girl-child is born, hold her to her mother’s breast.
Remember, a daughter is equivalent to a mother and needed by all.

Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

One month after the daughter is born, take her to the health centre, 
One month after the daughter is born, take her to the health centre
Never forget her polio injection and her vaccines.
 
Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

You must teach your daughter to read write,
You must also let her laugh and play.
Bring her up with love and care, O listen one and all!

Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

When your daughter is grown, consider her your friend,
When your daughter is grown, consider her your friend. 
Lovingly explain all things to her and if she errs, forgive her, mothers one and all! 

Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

If you educate your daughter, she will later become a teacher,
If you educate your daughter, she will later become a teacher. 
She will be an asset to her parents, O villagers, one and all! 

Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

Matangini Hazra was a woman who gave her life for her country,
Matangini Hazra was a woman who gave her life for her country. 
She drove the British away for the greater good of her people. 

Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

Women toil in the fields and return home to tend to their families,
Women toil in the fields and return home to tend to their families. 
How can you abuse and kill these very women>

Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

I place before you a few words about the worth of the girl-child.  

Hearken, hearken everyone,
Hearken carefully!

 

Manu Chitrakar’s text accompanying Afghan War reads:

Afghanistan a land of strange happenings!
Militant government, a terrorised poor, 
Indeed, a land of strange happenings!


Summary [of the scroll]

[Osama bin] Laden in the company of the Taliban, preaching malpractices in the name of religion wherever he goes.

In the capital of Afghanistan. Here you see Laden hand-in-glove with the Taliban government, spreading terror among their people, exploiting the poor, not paying them their dues, and forcing them to live in misery while the Taliban lord it over them. Her they are, once again preaching malpractices in the name of Islam, advocating the subjugation of women, restricting their personal freedom, while they themselves abuse and enjoy these very women. 

Successfully spreading a reign of terror throughout the world, Laden and his band are becoming increasingly fearless and brazen. As a result, Laden voices his long-standing anger against the United States and accuses them of doing his people much harm. The Taliban agree to join Laden in his war against [George W.] Bush and the United States. Here, the Taliban are seen hatching a plot with Laden on how to destroy the United States. This man behind here offers to join the fight he will fly the plane that will attach the World Trade Centre. His name is Taliq. 

Here he is seen flying the plane into the World Trade Centre during office hours. 

After this inciden[t] when Americans attached Afghanistan in search of [L]aden and his friends you can see Laden going towards the cave for hiding.