Finalists selected for major First Nations public artwork at new theatre

Minister for Communities and Housing, Minister for Digital Economy and Minister for the Arts The Honourable Leeanne Enoch

Two prominent Queensland artists have been shortlisted for a significant First Nations public art commission to be showcased as part of the new theatre project under construction in South Brisbane.

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said First Nations artists Megan Cope and Brian Robinson will now each produce a concept design working alongside First Nations design consultant Blaklash Creative and public art specialists UAP, as the next stage of the commission selection process.

“One work will be selected as the signature public artwork located in the external entry forecourt to the state’s new theatre at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC).

“The permanent public artwork will enhance the new theatre, connecting visitors to meaningful arts experiences, and elevating First Nations stories and cultures.

“I thank all the artists that expressed interest in this exciting opportunity and look forward to the final outcome of the process that will see a signature artwork, that tells the stories of First Nations peoples, in a location that has been a special place of storytelling for thousands of years.”

Minister Enoch said an independent selection panel shortlisted the two artists following an Expressions of Interest (EOI) process seeking First Nations artists with a cultural connection to Queensland.

“The panel, comprised of highly regarded First Nations artists and curators, other Indigenous professionals, and representatives with visual arts expertise, will also select the final concept design for this major public work next year,” Minister Enoch said.

Amanda Hayman and Troy Casey of Blaklash Creative said, “Blaklash is honoured to be involved in this significant public art commission for the state and the city.

“We look forward to working closely with Megan, Brian, and the team at UAP to develop concepts that are responsive to place and celebrate the diversity of the Country, stories and rich cultural landscape of Queensland,” Ms Hayman and Mr Casey said.

QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas said the artwork commission was a critical component of the new theatre, continuing the rich heritage of First Nations stories and connection to country.

“The decision to locate this artwork on the external entry forecourt to our new theatre was an intentional one as we seek to honour the fact that the country on which QPAC sits has long been a place of storytelling, dancing, meeting and connecting for First Nations peoples,” Mr Kotzas said.

“This location puts that history front and centre and illustrates its importance and relevance to all who enter the building.

“We are looking forward to seeing the concept designs by these two well-respected artists and thank them for contributing their creative talents to this commission.”

Minister Enoch said the Palaszczuk Government is committed to delivering and activating transformational cultural infrastructure that enhances access to meaningful arts and cultural experiences.

“Our Creative Together 10-year arts and cultural strategy, and its priorities including to elevate First Nations arts and activate Queensland places and spaces, also focusses on ensuring Queensland’s rich and diverse arts and cultures are celebrated on the global stage with the Brisbane Olympics and Paralympic Games firmly on the horizon.

“The new state of the art $175 million theatre will increase the capacity of QPAC, making it the largest performing arts centre in Australia with the potential to welcome an additional 300,000 visitors a year across five outstanding venue spaces,” Minister Enoch said.

Megan Cope is a Quandamooka artist known for site-specific sculptural installations, video work and paintings that investigate issues relating to identity, the environment and mapping practices. Megan has completed several public art projects throughout Australia – including the multi award-winning canopy artwork titled ‘After the flood’ with Cox Architecture for James Cook University, Townsville. Through this work, Megan explores themes such as climate, culture, and colonialism and how these elements are interwoven over time. Her highly collaborative art-making processes result in pertinent, visually arresting outcomes that illustrate the interrelatedness of societies and the various ecologies that sustain us.

Brian Robinson’s artworks present an intoxicating worldview. Graphic prints, contemporary sculptures and public art read as episodes in an intriguing narrative, revealing the strong tradition of storytelling within his family and his community. Born on Waiben, his ancestral lineage extends back to the Maluyligal people from the Western Islands of Torres Strait and the Wuthathi people from the silicon sand dunes at Shelburne Bay on the eastern side of Cape York Peninsula. Brian is internationally recognised for his printmaking and public sculptures in which he blends ancestral narratives, customs, traditions and abstract imagery to produce bold, innovative and distinctive works. His work has contributed significantly to the built environment of numerous cities across the country through a number of major public art commissions since 1998.

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