A striking new exhibition GOMA Q is on (and off) the walls at Queensland Art Gallery’s Gallery of Modern Art until 11 October.

We have seen works by Warhol and Picasso at GOMA, dresses by Valentino and dynamic exhibitions of Asia-Pacific art, but a new approach to the latest exhibition fastens the state gallery’s frame around its own borders. GOMA Q co-curated by the gallery’s director, Chris Saines, who says it “captures a moment in time from our local art landscape”, and is “a chance for us to focus our attention on the art being created right across Queensland and refresh our relationships with local artists”.

After strolling through the breezeway foyer at GOMA, the first artwork you’ll see is a large painting by Mavis Ngallametta from remote Aurukun at Cape York — almost as far from Brisbane as you could travel in Queensland. The work serves as a warm welcome to the exhibition, symbolising the grand cultural and geographical expanse of our state. Mavis has deftly painted natural pigments and charcoal onto canvas, to create an expressive map-like representation of a coastal landscape.


Madeleine Kelly’s kooky sculptures of Australian birds, Spectra of Birds, have a clever construction method: cardboard drink containers. There is a room within a room within the first gallery space — curious viewers will enjoy spiralling through a Queenslander-style house constructed by Dale Harding, with a dark, mysterious destination and title: their little black slaves, perished in isolation.

Born in England, Ian Friend has been proud to call Queensland home for 15 years. His sublime works on paper in GOMA Q were made over this period, between 2000 and 2015. Symmetry (for Angela Gardner) represents a response to local writer and visual artist Angela Gardner, who wrote three poems about Friend’s artworks. Friend’s works are aesthetically poetic — rhythmic, abstract, deep — and reward prolonged viewing. Having recently moved from Woolloongabba to Ipswich, Friend describes its clear, starry night sky in the superb suite, Moonlight in Glory I-III.

Also mysterious are two polished brass telescopes by Anita Holtsclaw — visitors are invited to peer into them, which reveals a tiny, moving seascape (for those with good eyesight). From this engaging work, titled beyond the horizon, the next gallery space is reached and a large, brooding wall of dark seascapes by Gordon Shepherdson await. While the images are forceful and scenic, they appear to have been painted from a distance, with heavy, black borders. This makes sense when the didactic informs that Shepherdson painted them following a stroke, reducing his mobility — as such, they are painted from his animated memory.

Davida Allen has long been a favourite with Queensland audiences, and art lovers will be pleased to see her works in GOMA Q with an abundant use of lusciously thick paint. Allen’s self-portrait, Grandmother painting, expresses great joy and love in its three-dimensional actions and fulsome hues.

Some of the most exciting works in the exhibition are self-portraits by Tyza Stewart — a talented young painter who expresses extreme purity with a sparse slight of hand. With the infinite possibilities of oil paint, Stewart reconstructs her identity with an attractive mix of both masculine and feminine visual traits. If emerging artists like Stewart represent the future of contemporary Queensland art, we can be very proud.

Words by Chris Hassall | Images supplied by QAGOMA