THREE ARTISTS FROM Abelam and seven from Kwoma in the East Sepik have travelled to Brisbane to create new work based on the art found in ceremonial men’s houses in the province.
Last year, Ruth McDougall, Curator of Pacific Art, and Michael O’Sullivan, Exhibitions Manager, from the Queensland Art Gallery travelled to the East Sepik with Papua New Guinea-born architect Martin Fowler to research the ceremonial men’s houses created by Abelam and Kwoma artists.
This research forms part of the development of a major project at the Gallery which explores ideas of the ‘ephemeral’ in contemporary art created in PNG.
Along with the mask cultures of New Britain and the contemporary art of Asmat artists in Papua, the East Sepik structures were chosen because of their powerful visual impact, the continuing strength of kastom and the structures’ ephemeral nature.
McDougall, O’Sullivan and Fowler visited villages in the areas surrounding Maprik and travelled up the Sepik River to Tongwinjamb, Mino and Yessan to view men’s houses and meet with artists and community leaders.
During this travel, groups of Kwoma, Abelam and Arapesh artists also participated in an art workshop based at the Ilahita guesthouse, with materials supplied by the Queensland Art Gallery.
As a result of these visits, two projects were identified as major commissions for the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane as part of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art exhibition.
For nine of the ten artists, this project represents their first opportunity for international travel. They will live in Brisbane for six to eight weeks and will have a dedicated workshop for carving and painting.