the churchie 2021




Artists: Akil Ahamat, Tiyan Baker, Christopher Bassi, Leon Russell (Cameron) Black, Ohni Blu, Riana Head-Toussaint, Visaya Hoffie, Kait James, Alexa Malizon, Kyra Mancktelow, Ivy Minniecon, Nina Sanadze, Jayanto Tan, and Joanne Wheeler

Curated by Grace Herbert

Cast your vote in the People's Choice Award via the VOTE HERE button below.

Read more about the churchie emerging art prize 2021 here.

1 Tiyan Baker

dihan bitugung da pasar, 2021
Embalmed durian shells and seeds, hydrocal plaster, fractionated coconut oil, durian, resin, fruit flies. Resin moulding and casting by Claire Tennant. Lifecast moulded, cast, and altered by Clare Nicholson

dihan bitugung da pasar (2021) is part of Tiyan Baker’s ongoing investigations into durian as an artistic medium. Durian is a divisive fruit that elicits strong feelings of pleasure in some people and feelings of disgust in others. In Sarawak, Baker’s family grow wild durian on their ancestral lands. For the artist’s family, and Bidayǔhs at large, durian brings wealth, continuity, and togetherness. Countless words, activities, and rituals surround durian, and it is commonly enjoyed at gatherings of family and friends. But it is also associated with danger and bodily harm—even among Bidayǔhs, it is believed that if durian is consumed incorrectly it may cause sickness or death. 

This work was inspired by an affectionate and longing message Baker’s aunt sent to relatives in a family Whatsapp chat:

“Gati kinde neg miri kita rarak nalo maan dihan bitugung da pasar / Everyone come here and together we can eat the durian piled up in the market.”

2 Leon Russell (Cameron) Black

Pupuni Jilamara, 2021
Natural ochres with acrylic binders on canvas, 181 x 120cm

Pupuni Jilamara, 2021
Natural ochres with acrylic binders on canvas, 181 x 120cm

Leon Russell (Cameron) Black’s works are representative of Tiwi Islands painting, while demonstrating a unique and striking individual style. The artist says of his work: 

“My paintings are about my country and my culture. My dreaming is Nyarringari (Magpie Geese). From my father side my country is Jurrupi. From my mother side my country is Yapalika. My Mother Lidwina Tepomitari is a well-known artist, she has been taught by my grandfather Romuald Puruntatameri—he was a great artist, cultural leader, and song man. My uncle Tracy is a really good carver. I have seen them all paint since I was a little boy. I learnt from them, looking at them painting and carving. I only paint with natural ochres. In my paintings I can tell everything about my life in Pirlangimpi, paint all these things in the Tiwi way, in my way, my own way.” 

3 Ivy Minniecon

White Washing, 2021
Prints on calico, string, dimensions variable

White Washing (2021) is an ongoing series of prints on fabric that document racial stereotyping experienced by the Indigenous arts community. This work includes images and stories of a broad cross section of the art community from students, academics, and contemporary artists associated with the Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art at the Queensland College of Art. The prints feature comments directed to or overheard by each collaborator, forming a tapestry of systematic racial abuse and vilification, and echoing how casual racism is engrained in our society. The bleached calico prints reference the domestic processes associated with the stolen generations, mission life, and slavery. 

4 Nina Sanadze

Apotheosis, 2021
Plaster models, moulds and fragments, 160 x 310 x 200cm 

Nina Sanadze’s Apotheosis (2021) is inspired by 19th century painting The Apotheosis of War by Russian artist Vasily Vereshchagin. It is constructed from the surviving studio archive of a prominent Soviet monumental sculptor, Valentin Topuridze (1907–1980), whose public sculptures were torn down in 1989 with the fall of the Soviet regime.

Displaced, disembodied, de-contextualised, and piled together like corpses, the sculptural archive forms a different kind of monument: a memorial. The interactions between individual sculptures create random, evocative, and dramatic compositions. Once monumental and victorious, these sculptures now appear fragile and insignificant, alluding to the impermanence of political eras and ideologies. Apotheosis resurrects an erased visual history, its unorthodox and seemingly violent arrangement prompting us to consider its ongoing sociological value. The work is an iteration of 100 Years After and 30 Years On, an installation originally presented at the 3rd Tbilisi Triennial in Georgia.

5 Kyra Mancktelow

No Perception – Head Adornment, 2021
Native Australian feathers, kangaroo bone, sterling silver, 26 x 17cm

No Perception – Nose Adornment, 2021
Kangaroo bone, gold leaf, 19 x 19cm

No Perception – Dilly, 2021
Ink impression on Hahnemühle paper, 120 x 40cm (x 2) 

Blue jacket – Blak skin, 2021
Ink impression on Hahnemühle paper, 145 x 92cm

No Perception – Neck Adornment, 2021
Phragmites Australia reeds, Kangaroo tail sinew, sterling silver, 19 x 19cm

Kyra Mancktelow’s work uses unique printmaking techniques and archival research to create detailed prints, sculptures, and installations that challenge the colonial views which frame and degrade First Nations people. 

“Our Old People were unclothed but never naked. Our Old People dressed in their identityIn body scars and pigments marking ceremoniesThe same way the white man wears a uniform. Our Old People trimmed their hair with bones, feathers, fibres, and shells. The same way a King wears his crown. Our Old People wore adornments around their necks and on their bodies.The same way the wealth flash their jewels.Our Old People carried their dillies against their skin.The same way a Queen holds her purse.Our Old People were named savages by the nakedness of their bodies by newcomers who colonise us, stigmatise us, and fetishise us.”
—Kyra Mancktelow

6 Christopher Bassi

The Garden and The Sea, 2021
Oil on canvas, series of 6, each 45.7 x 40.6cm

Christopher Bassi’s The Garden and The Sea (2021) is a series of paintings that draw on the artist’s familiar histories and connection to the landscape of Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait. Moving between themes of personal histories, family, and reflections on the self, Bassi’s work depicts a series of individual motifs, that when viewed collectively represent the idea of ‘home’ as both an emotional and physical place. Simultaneously intimate and universal, the works speak to the fragmented nature of both love and belonging.


Shells tangled in the roots
On an altar of thick vegetation.
Green diaphane hands
Suspend spheres that mimic the sun.
Pawpaw for breakfast, lunch or dinner

Afterwards, wearing the sun’s long shadow
Find water and cast your body like a net.
Let the sea beat your longing out of you.
A mother, of pearl, and of mine.
We share these aquamarine veins,
Combed seaweed hair,
And the history of an ocean.

In the amber hours,
Smoke billows from a kerosene drum.
You’ve let the day grow upwards on you,
Until, in the end, you too become a mango tree.

Give yourself permission to grow
Take time owed to you.
Let the air form a salted crust
And remember that rest is part of the revolution.
This is where you’ve come to find yourself.
In the garden and the sea.

—Christopher Bassi

7 Riana Head-Toussaint

First Language, 2020
Single-channel video, 00:10:00

First Language (2020) is a meditation on movement; considering the inherent choreography at play in wheelchair use. The video captures and archives the body, the movement, the muscle-memory: the persistence of culture through intimacy and visibility.

Riana Head-Toussaint considers, “What happens to movement that is not recognised in this way? As a wheelchair-user, I have a movement language that is intricate and precise. It is a part of my bodily memory and has taken a lifetime to hone. However, there is no recognised lexicon to communicate and legitimise my wheelchair movement. If I want to share my practice with others, there is no validated language available for us to utilise. First Language is a response to that: a concentration on the visible language in silent revolt against the erasure and non-recognition of legitimate forms of cultural expression.” 

Every second loop of the video is accompanied by audio description of the action appearing on screen, facilitating another form of witnessing movement derived from disability culture. This alternate use of language distils the previously unseen into the seen and heard. 

The loop of the video without audio description starts at 00:00. The loop with audio description starts at 03:28. 

8 Kait James

Life is pretty shitty without a Treaty, 2020
Acrylic yarn and cotton on printed cotton, 46 x 73cm

Lucky Country, 2021
Acrylic yarn, cotton and felt on printed cotton, 46 x 73cm

Captain Fu**er, 2021
Acrylic yarn, cotton and felt on printed linen, 46 x 73cm

Bloody Shit, 2021
Acrylic yarn and cotton on printed cotton, 46 x 73cm

Invaders, game over, 2019
Acrylic yarn, cotton and acrylic paint on printed cotton, 46 x 73cm 

As a proud Wadawurrung woman, Kait James’s work poses questions relating to identity, perception, and our knowledge of Australia’s Indigenous communities. Using crafting techniques including punch needling, she embroiders kitsch found materials. Her current work focuses on colonial and Aboriginal calendar tea towels from the 1970s and 80s that generalise and stereotype her culture, subverting them with familiar pop-culture references, Indigenous issues relevant to that year, as well as pressing concerns of the present day to reflect her contemporary perspective. Through the use of humour and vivid colours, James addresses the way colonial culture has dominated Australia’s history, how Australia and the world perceives our First Nations’ People, and her personal reflections on her Indigenous heritage.

9 Joanne Wheeler

Olden Times, Ntaria, 2021
Acrylic on linen, 92 x 151cm

These Times, Ntaria, 2021
Acrylic on linen, 19.5 x 111.5cm

Joanne Wheeler’s painting Olden Times, Ntaria (2021) depicts her family on Country before colonisation and the establishment of the Hermannsburg Mission. Shown alongside, These Times, Ntaria (2021) illustrates the community coming together for a sports day in the present.

Joanne Wheeler describes her works:

“Family used to be walking round all along Finke River, find all them emu. Looking. Looking. Real hungry one. This is my Country. Good Country, sandhill Country, green Country, lots of grass, sandhill, mountain. This is my family on Country before Hermannsburg Mission Times. Long ago those people, long ago. That’s how things were. And here I am. Lots of people, family, from different community coming to Hermannsburg for sports day. Staying in the house, mix up. Basketball, softball, football. People walking down the street, mothers pushing baby in the prams to the oval. And they going to the shop to get some takeaway, fuel station, filling up with fuel.” 

10 Alexa Malizon

Dalawa, 2021
Three-channel video, colour and sound, 00:06:09

Majestic Filipino-Australian hybrid landscapes, cheesy visual transitions, lip-synching, back-flexing dances, and awkward stares all contribute to the disconnect between the expectations of what a ‘Filipina’ encompasses and the personal shame when these expectations are not fulfilled. Alexa Malizon’s Dalawa (2021) is a three-channel video work that explores the performative contradictions and complexities of growing up in Australia with Filipino heritage. On two of the three screens, Malizon dances in time to a reverberative version of the popular Filipino song “Otso Otso”. She seems both happy and alarmed to be carrying out this choreography. In the centre video, she attempts to sing the Filipino karaoke classic “Bituing Walang Ningning” while in the background a fictional landscape morphs Mount Mayon in the Philippines into high plane grasslands of Ngunnawal and Ngambri country, Canberra. Both of these sequences evoke an intimate, humorous, yet unsettling friction between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ in light of performing to cultural expectations.

11 Visaya Hoffie

Rich in cryptocurrency, 2021
Clay, wool, oil, acrylic, airbrush, nail enamel, glue, eyeshadow, nylon, dimensions variable

Visaya Hoffie’s installation Rich in cryptocurrency (2021) blurs the traditional boundaries that define what art is, challenging the hierarchies and implied authority that defines fine art as more tasteful and aesthetically superior to pop culture or craft which is largely considered more functional and less valuable. Hoffie brings together re-worked replica designer furniture, a ceramic table lamp, an oversized inflatable companion, a one-off designed tufted rug, and a painting featuring an angry colon to mimic an ersatz gallery environment, placing the viewer’s physical presence at the centre of their experience of the work. 

12 Akil Ahamat

Dawn of a day too dark to call tomorrow, 2021
Digital video with stereo sound, 00:03:58

Akil Ahamat’s Dawn of a day too dark to call tomorrow (2021) is part of an ongoing series centered on a relationship between the artist and a snail. In this iteration, we find Ahamat and the snail in physical proximity but at the precipice of a conflict. They perform and reperform a shifting script, highlighting the purpose and effects of storytelling. 

The work contends with the futility of the extended argument in the face of misinformation and shortening attention spans. Dawn of a day too dark to call tomorrow advocates for emotional affect and immediacy in the collapse of the information age and the post-truth era. 

Using intimate ASMR sound design and intricately detailed cinematography, the work sensorially reproduces the main question posed in the script; what do we do when we can’t trust what we see?

13 Jayanto Tan

Potluck Party Pai Ti Kong (A Praying The Heaven God), 2021
Ceramics, dimensions variable

Jayanto Tan’s ceramics ‘soul foods’ were created during COVID-19 lockdowns, resulting from conversations between the artist and his family and friends about making art in isolation. The work is inspired by the myth and tradition of Pai Ti Kong (translated as ‘Praying [to] The Heaven God’) of his mother’s Hokkien ancestry. In this story Hokkien people escaped a violent invasion of their village by hiding in a sugarcane field and praying for their safety. When they survived the attack they emerged and honoured the Heaven God for keeping them safe through presenting offerings.

As an immigrant artist, who fled poverty and political oppression in search of a better life in Sydney, Tan created these objects as homage of the victims of the Riot of May 1998 throughout Indonesia. The riot largely targeted Chinese-Indonesians and thousands of people where were violently attacked and massacred. Despite the tragedy remaining unresolved politically, this ceramic work is intended to symbolise life and hope. 

14 Ohni Blu

Water Doesn’t Tell me to Lose Weight, 2019
Single-channel video, 00:06:25

Water Doesn’t Tell Me To Lose Weight (2019) was filmed in a remote area of the Yarrunga creek on the traditional lands of the Yuin People. Surrounded by a sunken forest of burnt Eucalyptus trees, Blu’s naked body swims slowly through the dark water. This otherworldly and surreal landscape communicates ideas about the social model of disability and offers an emotional insight into the artist’s relationship to their changing body. This narrative contemplates the idea that as a strong swimmer, if Blu lived in a world of water, they might not define themselves as physically disabled. Using techniques drawn from speculative fiction, the artist challenges harmful ideologies and dreams instead of a more diverse and accessible future. 


Official Opening + Prize Announcement
Friday 22 October, 6–8pm
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Potluck Party: Pai Ti Kong Feast
Saturday 9 October, 3–4.30pm

'the churchie' Curator Exhibition Tour
Saturday 23 October, 1–1.30pm
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Professional Development for Educators
Sunday 10 October, 10–11.30am
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