A co-curated exhibition, titled Freedom of Expression, at this year’s Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) will showcase visual art and literary works from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates, to draw attention to the strength of artistic output among Queensland prisoners.
CIAF Artistic Director Janina Harding announced the collaboration she has developed with Tanks Arts Centre Curator, Chris Stannard, to present Freedom of Expression, opening at the Tanks Art Centre on July 1, and running until July 24.
Shining a light on artwork created by prison inmates from four of Queensland’s correctional centres – Mareeba, Maryborough, Gatton and Rockhampton – Freedom of Expression will show a continuing cultural expression and connection to country, and seeks to change public perception on what constitutes an artist by re-defining the public’s view on prison art.
Importantly, Harding says, the showcase of work has the potential to create a rehabilitation and economic benefit to inmates for life beyond prison.
Open to all artistic approaches, the works in the curated exhibition will reflect the inmate artists’ current emotional situation, inspired by their own cultural background and contemporary life experiences.
Curator Chris Stannard knew that putting together an exhibition of prisoner art wasn’t going to be a simple thing.
“It was more a case of working out with staff members on the inside how it could be done, asking questions, asking permissions and taking their lead,” Stannard said.
“Eventually we were able to go inside the prisons, meet the artists and take in some art supplies – canvases, paint and brushes.
I think watching the inmates unwrap those parcels and share out the contents was when I realised the project was going to be fine,” he said.
The artistic director says that the main objective of the Freedom of Expression exhibition is to dissolve any predetermined opinions around what creates an artist.
“CIAF is all encompassing.
“Art is for everyone and art is freedom.
“This is what people can expect from the Freedom of Expression exhibition,” Harding said.
Welcoming more than 50,000 visitors last year, the CIAF team anticipates welcoming larger crowds in 2016, as it kicks off with a spectacular Opening Night event on Thursday July 14, and runs through to July 17.
Featuring more than 100 artists, some of them Queensland’s most renowned Indigenous artists from remote art communities including from Mornington Island and Pormpuraaw, the three-day art fair offers a daily program of dance, music, a bustling art market and a curated art exhibition.
Cairns Indigenous Art Fair is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland’s Backing Indigenous Arts Initiative, a program that aims to build a stronger, more sustainable and ethical Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts industry in the State. It is also supported through the Visual Arts and Crafts Strategy, an initiative of the Australian State and Territory Governments.
The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair is part of Tourism and Events Queensland’s It’s Live!in Queensland major events calendar. Check out Queensland.com/events for a comprehensive calendar of exciting Queensland events.