Arts & culture,
Creative arts & culture,

Indigenous art installations create bold outdoor experience

HOTA | July 14, 2021

Two of Australia’s leading contemporary artists – Queensland Waanyi artist Judy Watson and Sri-Lankan born, Sydney-based artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, have created bold new outdoor artworks responding to the cultural history of the site and welcoming visitors to the new $60.5M HOTA Gallery.

Brisbane based artist Judy Watson presented a multi-part installation which will serve as a place of gathering, education, knowledge, and ceremony for all visitors. Surrounded by Indigenous native plantings, this layered, sculptural garden work includes a pathway forming a topographical map depicting the Nerang landscape prior to European settlement. Piccabeen basket and dilly bag sculptures designed in collaboration with Quandamooka artists Libby Harward and Elisa Jane Carmichael will loop through the space and a two-metre tall feather canopy will provide a place for shelter. Local language and motifs will be sandblasted onto the bleachers that encompass the site, expressing cultural knowledges, histories and stories. Watson is known for examining Indigenous Australian histories through public artworks and this mediative installation is a space for visitors to learn about the Indigenous culture that lies within the ground and air.

For his first ambitious work in the public domain, contemporary artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran has created a monumental six-metre high, double-sided sculpture to be located at the lower ground entrance to the gallery. Predominantly composed of bronze, Ramesh has combined a range of materials including concrete, neon and fibreglass to create a multi-coloured avatar reflecting the vibrancy of the HOTA Gallery building. Holding a neon sketched figure companion and standing on a geometric plinth, this is Nithiyendran’s largest sculpture to date and will welcome visitors inside the gallery with outstretched arms and expressive and commanding tones.

Known for his challenging and innovative references of ideas of monumentality and idolatry, Nithiyendran’s new work is an extension and consolidation of his practice, continuing the artist’s interest in the authority and function of large-scale figurative sculptures that frame the entrances of various architectural forms and civic spaces across cultures and centuries. The artwork has been commissioned by HOTA and Melbourne Art Foundation (MAF).

Judy Watson 2018 Portrait by Rachel See
Judy Watson ‘standing stone, kangaroo grass, red and yellow ochre’ 2020 acrylic and graphite on canvas.
Ramesh Nithiyendran (photo credit: Anna Kucera)

Tracy Cooper Lavery, Director, Gallery and Visual Arts, HOTA says “What a joy to commission these significant works by two of Australia’s leading contemporary artists to welcome visitors into HOTA Gallery. Judy Watson’s collaborative work will create a shared space where we can learn together and acknowledge the indelible Aboriginal culture embedded within, and throughout our shared country. Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s work lends itself to a contemporary Gold Coast vibe while recognising global spiritual culture. These new commissions join our growing program of outdoor art experiences and highlight our vision to create a place for art – both indoors and out.”

Judy Watson says: “The past lives within us. Ancestor’s dilly bags and baskets held within Australian and International collections are intertwined by the memory strands connecting contemporary Aboriginal artists work, in this case, Libby Harward and Elisa Jane Carmichael. The sculptural elements point to Aboriginal continuity and survival. The eagle feathers shelter and protect, the shells and stones embedded within the river form take us on a journey. We listen to those who came before and follow them to our future.”

Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran said: “The work gestures to a range of global sources that link to my cultural background and contemporary culture. I hope local and international visitors engage with the work by considering the meanings and significance of idolatry and sculptural monuments in public spaces.”

The $60.5 million HOTA Gallery is the largest public gallery outside a capital city in Australia, spanning six levels and presenting a dynamic program of world premiere international exhibitions, Australian exclusives and new commissions. Designed by award-winning Melbourne-based architects ARM, the gallery will include over 2,000m2 of AAA rated, international standard exhibition space and a dedicated Children’s Gallery, and will be home to the $32 million City Collection, consisting of more than 4,400 artworks (including one of the largest collections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in regional Australia).


Gallery Exhibition Dates

Lyrical Landscapes: The Art of William Robinson

31 July – 3 October

Contemporary Masters from New York: Art from the Mugrabi Collection

13 Nov 2021-27 February 2022

World Upside Down

8 May – 10 October

HOTA Collects: Highlights from the City Collection

From 8 May

This article was originally published on HOTA’s website.