Artwork title: 'Nambanga'
This is an oil on canvas portrait of Siobhan McDonnell from the Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific. In it, I wanted to capture the way Siobhan approaches her work with authenticity, humility, strength, and the utmost respect for the Indigenous communities she passionately collaborates with and advocates for.
The Banyan tree roots (also known in Vanuatu as the Nambanga tree) are symbolic of the deep connections Siobhan makes through her collaborations as well as her understanding of Indigenous cultures and their connection to land. As an activist scholar, Siobhan consciously makes an effort to challenge the hierarchies between researcher and research communities. She views meaningful engagement and collaboration with Indigenous communities as central to her own academic understanding. This is in stark contrast to the approach of ‘acting on’ communities as an outsider. Whilst Siobhan’s research spans across an array of projects in Indigenous Australia and the Pacific, the overarching theme that binds her work together is the decolonisation of the Anthropocene.
Artist: Liah Naidoo
My name is Liah Naidoo and I am a self-taught oil painter with a keen interest in portraiture. I am a second year student at the ANU studying Art History and Curatorship and I’m hoping to work as an art conservator in the future. My other passions include hiking, film photography and music. You can find my art on my instagram @liahnaidoo.
My research is about Indigenous people, place and belonging. Increasingly I work in spaces related to climate justice in the Pacific and Indigenous Australia. Climate change, and the enduring impacts of colonisation, mean that in so many places in the world Indigenous peoples entire ways of life are being impacted.
While Liah has been painting this I have been trying to finish my revisions on my book about land issues in Vanuatu. In Vanuatu between 2000 and when I wrote the new land laws in 2014, there was a land grab which resulted in over ten percent of Indigenous customary land being taken out of Indigenous control, often without the consent or knowledge of the Indigenous landowning group. My book describes how that happened.
Although Liah has chosen to paint a portrait of me, none of my work would be possible without these deep collaborations with Indigenous leaders, scholars, Elders and communities. I would like to express my deep gratitude and pay tribute to all who have guided me on this path. In Vanuatu, a tree like this is called a Nambanga. These are sacred banyan trees that are often inhabited by ancestral beings. I think in this painting if this tree could speak it would sing out the names of all my dear collaborators who are centrally important to that work that I have undertaken in Vanuatu: Richard Matanik, Kalkot Murmur, Leisara Kalotiti, Douglas Kalotiti, Trudi Kalotiti, Ralph Regenvanu, Pierre Makmar, Brigette Laboukly. Tank yu tumas yufala evirwan, mi save se yufala stampa long ol wok blong mi.
Artwork title: 'Dealer's Choice'
‘Dealer’s choice’ was created in response to the research of Dr Yandisa Ngqangashe into regulation and governance of food policies. Using sugar-filled desserts as a focus to examine the role of larger powers on individual food choices, the work speaks of the way people may be presented with inadequate, even terrible options, and then are expected to make the right choice. Dr Ngqangashe’s research involves looking at how implementing structural changes can make it easier for people to eat healthy. Thinking about how systems and structures shape our actions, rather than placing the blame solely on the individual, informed the making of this work. In this image, the consumer’s options are very much limited in kind.
Artist: Jody Thompson
Jody Thompson is an emerging artist currently undertaking a Bachelor of Visual Arts, majoring in Glass, at the Australian National University. Dividing her time between Sydney and Canberra, Jody works in pencil, graphite, charcoal, and digital mediums to study and showcase the beauty of the subjects she chooses, alongside developing rendering skills that celebrate the act of the pencil, the line, and the drawn.
Her work is inspired by the natural world and the urban environments that she inhabits and visits; from her travel experiences overseas to the Australian landscape and its wildlife. In addition, she has recently begun to explore the human form in her work. Although primarily a drawer, Jody’s diverse practice also encompasses watercolour, animation, and materials-based investigations with glass and coiled basketry. A fascination with the process of making drives her interest in craft mediums.
Dr Yandisa Ngqangashe
Dr Yandisa Ngqangashe is a research fellow in food regulation and governance related to the prevention of diet related noncommunicable diseases. Her work seeks to understand the regulatory governance of population nutrition policies especially the role of different actors and institutions and how they use their power to shape food policies. Dr Ngqangashe joined the ANU School of regulation and global governance in 2019. Prior to this, She completed a PhD in Communication Sciences at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, focusing on the effects of food media consumption on adolescents’ food literacy. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy and a Master’s degree in Public Health.
Artwork title: '面对面' ('Face to face')
面对面 is a portrait of a quest for self-understanding during a timeless conflict between the unfiltered human form and technological life. Inspired by Ari Larissa Heinrich’s most recent work, a translation of Chi Ta-wei’s queer speculative fiction The Membranes from Chinese to English, 面对面 takes into consideration themes of identity politics, gender, literacy, technology, social change and the future. Influenced by horror manga and the work of Junji Ito, 面对面’s monochromatic colour scheme and focus on clean linework presents a graphic narrative for the viewer’s interpretation. With no clear storyline across the panels of this piece, the artists asks you to consider your own relationship between human experience and technology to carve out a unique narrative.
Artist: Sydney Farey
Sydney Farey’s art practice unites a complex range of often contradictory references from her life and experiences. Her artistic perspectives are informed by many years spent living abroad as a third culture kid. Her work draws together elements of western and eastern cultures and cross cultural communication with a focus on personal narratives inspired by her family history and their shared experiences.
Drawing and mark-making are intrinsic parts of Farey’s creative process. Studying Printmaking at the ANU has enabled her to develop her practice beyond its drawing-based beginnings. Especially interested in the meticulous notions of mark-making in association with the intense labour of the printmaking tradition, Farey sees that immense thought and care are put into every line created, with the hope of producing tangible and meticulous forms of personal memory.
Ari Larissa Heinrich
Ari Larissa Heinrich (he/they/他) writes about contemporary visual cultures from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, with a focus on experimental works that employ medical and biological materials like body parts, pathological specimens, and organic chemicals. He is also known for his translations of key works of queer literature from Taiwan.
Artwork title: 'Through the Looking Glass'
Computer codes, big data and the million-dollar question: will artificial intelligence eventually surpass its creators to an irreparable dystopian effect? In a neon simulacrum of floating fish, human facsimiles and ambiguity, Ashley Cullen’s mural ‘Through the Looking Glass’ responds to Dr. Christopher Hobson’s research on artificial intelligence, exploring how advancements in the development of AI technology force us to revaluate our own humanness. Cullen’s collaboration with Hobson touches on nascent concepts and imaginings of automated life, offering a glimpse into a future in which the border between human and artificial becomes increasingly blurred.
Artist: Ashley Cullen
Originally from the UK, Ashley Cullen (b. 1998) is an artist based in Canberra. Her work charts an intensely charged vision of the human experience, capturing people at their most raw and vulnerable moments. Growing up in a large family, Cullen has always been fascinated with describing those close to her through sketching and painting.
After finishing college (2016) and winning the John Cope Award, Cullen would go on to pursue her love of painting at the Australian National University, specialising in visual art and literature. In her final year of university, she emerged as a finalist for both the Persistence Art Competition and the Global Undergraduate Awards, graduating with the ANU School of Art & Design EASS Belconnen Arts Centre Exhibition Award and the Eckersley’s Art & Craft Materials Award (2020).
Dr Christopher Hobson is a Program Convenor in the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University. He also holds positions as a Visiting Associate Professor in the College of Global Liberal Arts, Ritsumeikan University and a Visiting Research Fellow in the Cyber Civilization Research Center, Keio University.
Dr Hobson’s work is best described as global theory; drawing on international relations, political theory, history, and sociology to try to better understand big ethical and political issues in the world. His research explores some of the risks and dangers posed by the further integration of AI into society, and considers how this transition can better guided and directed.