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Griffith Magazine

The Visible Man

Alumni

Second Edition August 2018

Through his captivating artistic work, Tony Albert is providing a powerful response to the misrepresentation of First Peoples with his acclaimed kitsch and confrontational imagery.

The Queensland College of Art alumnus is celebrating a decade of work with his first major solo exhibition, Visible, at the Queensland Art Gallery. At 37, he is the youngest person to ever have a solo show at the gallery.

The exhibition reflects his powerful and varied artistic practice, which encompasses everything from painting and photography to video and installation.

“Halfway through my degree at the Queensland College of Art, I undertook a traineeship at the Queensland Art Gallery, and ended up working here for eight years,” he says.

“Now, ten years later, I’m back with this show, so it’s a lovely full-circle.”

“No one in my family had gone to uni before, but everyone at the QCA was so supportive and the course really provided the foundation of my entire art practice.”

Tony was born in Townsville to a Girramay/Kuku Yalanji father and a non-Indigenous mother. He credits the Queensland College of Art’s unique Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art with providing him with a foundation as an artist.

“I knew I wanted to study art, and to find a course that allowed me to major in contemporary Australian Indigenous art was amazing,” he says.

“No one in my family had gone to uni before, but everyone at the QCA was so supportive and the course really provided the foundation of my entire art practice.”

Tony graduated in 2004, and soon became one of the country’s most lauded young artists.

His work has won over critics and gallery-goers alike, using humour and re-appropriation of kitsch ‘Aboriginalia’ to challenge the way First Peoples are represented in popular culture.

In 2014, he was awarded the $100,000 Basil Sellers Art Prize and the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.

The following year, he had a major public artwork, Yininmadyemi – Thou didst let fall, installed in Sydney’s Hyde Park to commemorate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who served in the armed forces.

In 2016, Tony won the $65,000 Fleurieu Art Prize, known as the richest landscape art prize in the world.

“I still feel like a kid with a dream,” he says.

“There are so many possibilities and opportunities out there – it’s important to reach out and take hold of them, and not let anything hold you back.”