Local artists reflect on identity in HERE&NOW20: Perfectly Queer

Two upcoming exhibitions at UWA’s Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery are exploring what it means to be queer in 2020, and how we relate to our history long before the movements of Stonewall and the 78ers.

HERE&NOW20: Perfectly Queer celebrates local LGBTIQ+ artists, drawing on their own history to examine what it means to be queer.

The exhibition presents an intergenerational dialogue, with established queer artists and emerging young creators coming together in this exploration of identity.

Curator Brent Harrison says he was curious to explore what it means to be queer through a visual art lens.

“In the research for this exhibition I was looking at queer exhibitions that were held in Western Australia in the 90s, which was a time where it was illegal to exhibit or publicly promote homosexuality,” Harrison told OUTinPerth.

“Under that lens you could consider the exhibition of artwork could fall under that, the exhibition of art was illegal, but there were still exhibitions that happened until the law was overturned in 2002.”

“To my knowledge there haven’t been any exhibitions like that since, this was at the peak of the AIDS crisis, there was a lot more cultural awareness… I think some people have moved on, or think we’ve already serviced that area of the community, or just general homophobia.”

“So for this exhibition I’ve brought together some artists who were involved in those exhibitions in the 90s, and I’ve found some more emerging artists who have been working with these themes to create an intergenerational dialogue.”

The exhibition includes works from local LGBTIQ+ artists Benjamin Bannan, Nathan Beard, Janet Carter, Lill Colgan, Jo Darbyshire, Bronte Jones, Andrew Nicholls and Colin Smith.

HERE&NOW20: Perfectly Queer runs in tandem with another LGBTIQ+ focused exhibition from Melbourne based artist Drew Pettifer.

Pettifer’s work, Sorrowful Act, dives back into the archives to explore the first recorded instance of homophobia on this land, centuries before the Sydney riots of 1978.

Sparked by the journal of Adriaan van der Graaf of the East India Company ship Zeewijk, which described two men “committing with each other the abominable sins of Sodom and Gomorra” while shipwrecked on WA’s Gun Island, and sentenced to death.

You can hear Drew Pettifer’s full conversation with Leigh Andrew Hill on RTRFM’s All Things Queer program here.

HERE&NOW20: Perfectly Queer and Sorrowful Act open this Saturday 29th August at UWA’s Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery. For more information head to Facebook.

Image: Salvation Rainbow (detail), 2020 – Benjamin Bannan (provided)

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