Date: 14-Mar-2013 – 21-Apr-2013
Location: Contemporary Art Tasmania
Obsession includes a digital projection, paintings and sculpture.
Foley’s art practice is grounded in Australian history and often brings focus to buried accounts from a colonial past that can contribute to the shaping of polity, identity and nationality for many contemporary Aboriginal Australians.
A key work in Obsession, 1897 Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act, 2006, gives stark attention to a document that did little to remove the bonds of opium addiction and corrupted labour practices for Indigenous Australians and Chinese immigrants in Queensland. The Act legislated for the removal of basic freedoms for many Indigenous Australian people: the control of their movement, labour rights, personal property, and the custody of their children was devolved to government administrators through the Protector of Aboriginals. Opinion at the time believed the Act was a short-term solution for a State-based problem – a problem that would ultimately ‘die out’. In 1966, the Queensland Electoral Act was changed to allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to vote.
In Bliss, 2006, Foley presents the mesmerising beauty of the opium poppy en masse. The opium poppy has a successful and symbiotic relation with mankind that is traceable to prehistoric times. A valuable trade commodity across the ancient world, its effect on economies and societies was heightened in the C17th opium wars between the British Empire and China. Colonial understanding of social control and opinion of the time followed the Chinese diaspora to Queensland. The work was videoed in Tasmania, the world’s largest producer of opium extracts for the pharmaceutical market.
Dispersed, 2008, is a work charged with the violence and wanton destruction that accompanied early settlement. In 1842, the first Native Police Corps formed in Victoria. (Queensland’s notorious Native Police Force followed in 1848.) Commanded by European officers with Aboriginal men from distant tribes as troopers, their assigned duties in assistance to government and society were lawful. On the C19th frontier, official police assignments to ‘disperse’ gatherings of Aboriginals seen as threats or nuisance to colonial progress align closely with the known massacres of Aboriginal people at the time.
Fiona Foley is a senior Australian artist who has exhibited regularly since 1988, including in numerous international exhibitions. Her works are held in major public collections across Australia and beyond. She was a founding member of Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative in 1987 and has served on the boards of Artspace and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Fiona Foley lives and works in Brisbane.
Obsession is presented with Ten Days on the Island.