Exhibition: APT7 | GOMA | Brisbane | Part 1 Works from PNG

The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) is the flagship contemporary art event for Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art. It focuses on contemporary art of Asia and Oceania, and I always look forward to it as it is usually a bit spectacular, thought-provoking, and “full”.

The most recent exhibition didn’t knock my socks off as much as earlier ones, I felt that it lacked the political punch and edginess that I have come to expect. But perhaps also we are becoming more and more familiar with contemporary art from Asia and the Pacific and it’s difficult to maintain an element of surprise and uniqueness after 20 or so years.  And also, the artists are more involved in the international art world, participating not just in “niche” events like this one but also in biennials and triennials throughout the world. Having said that, I wasn’t disappointed in the show, just not blown away. It remains a huge (75 artists  and groups from 27 countries) exposition of contemporary art.

There was so much that I will separate my review into three parts, there were a lot of works that are relevant to my textiles degree.

A large area near the entrance was devoted to what appeared to be an ethnographic collection of traditional work from Papua New Guinea. It was beautiful and interesting, but in my opinion not a good fit with the APT. A more relevant PNG contribution could have been the work of collective Yal Ton. I saw their video at the MCA’s Taboo exhibition around the same time as the APT show and found it more relevant than the works at GOMA.

But the works at GOMA were spectacular:

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The PNG work, co-curated by architect Martin Fowler, included a number of masks, totems and artefacts (see photos above) such as giant woven masks by the Sulka and the Pomio people, Arawe spirit masks, and headdresses by the Coastal Arapesh and by the Toloi, who incorporate western religious icons in their work. The smaller works were framed by a structure based on a traditional spirit house or kurrumbu, created by seven Kwoma artists and wonderfully detailed (photos below)

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I don’t want to give the impression I didn’t like these works from PNG – I LOVED them. I took a million photos and I have examined them often, I greatly admire their graphic power.

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