Perth-based Martu artist Curtis Taylor is looking forward to seeing the response to his first solo exhibition, Untitled (Uura), which brings together sculpture, installation, painting and film.
Showing at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), the exhibition explores the artist’s sense of self and how language, knowledge and persistent memories dwell within and re-surface across generations. Through language and ritual, Curtis examines cultural and personal identity and creates immersive spaces that explore the edges of life and death.
PICA director Amy Barrett-Lennard describes Curtis as one of Australia’s most talented and committed emerging artists. “His artistic practice draws from traditional and contemporary culture, offering distinctive, haunting and deeply personal works,” says Ms Barrett-Lennard.
Traditionally working in film, Curtis has experimented with new materials and processes for this exhibition, including self-portrait plaster casts and neon. He is also showing some new video content including two pornographic works.
“In WA, particularly, people know me as a film maker and visual artist,” says Curtis. “With this exhibition I want to show I can work with other mediums and still get my story across.” That story is his life and experiences, including growing up between Bidyadanga in the Kimberley region and Parnngurr in the East Pilbara.
As a child, Curtis learned the jukurrpa (stories) of his Elders through story, song and paintings. When it came to telling his own jukurrpa, Curtis started writing and directing short films, presenting narratives that spoke directly of Martu knowledge and experience.
Producing stories in Martu Wangka dialect for his community and younger generations is fundamental to Curtis’ practice. Martu Wangka is an amalgamation of eight different Western Desert dialects that emerged in the 1960s at the Jigalong Mission, established as a ration depot along the Rabbit Proof Fence.
Martu Wangka is a key visual component of one of Curtis’ previous works, Nyunjila, which features in his exhibition. Carved wooden tongues are inscribed with words from stories and songs composed by Curtis’ paternal grandfather, whom he never met. The works represent the first time his grandfather’s words have been documented – carved into materials from the country where his grandfather used to live.
Over the past decade, Curtis has emerged as one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists. He believes he has an important voice in the whole indigenous conversation and hopes his work will encourage audiences to increasingly pay respect to indigenous culture and the original makers of relics and artworks.
Curtis is an integral member of a generation of artists from the Pilbara Region who have asserted the strength of their culture and ongoing connection to country through vital projects such as Yiwarra Kuju: the Canning Stock Route, 2010-2013 (National Museum of Australia and FORM), We don’t need a map: A Martu experience of the Western Desert, 2012- 2016 (Fremantle Arts Centre), In Cahoots: artists collaborate across Country, 2017-2019 (Fremantle Arts Centre). Each of these projects has toured galleries nationally, sharing a vivid impression of Martu culture, country and language with vast audiences.
Untitled (Uura) is part of PICA’s 30th anniversary program, which presents new and exciting work by a selection of artists from its three-decade-long history as a multidisciplinary contemporary arts space.
Where: PICA, First Floor Galleries
When: 19 October – 22 December 2019, Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 5pm