Gazing Boldly Back and Forward: Urban Aboriginal Women Artists and New Global Feminisms in Transnational Art

By Ruth Skilbeck.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian women contemporary artists made an important contribution to the foundational impacts and ongoing significance of feminism and the 1970s Women’s Art Movement on all that has followed in international contemporary art. Whereas distance from Euro-centric culture was once lamented by Australian settlers as a tyranny, critical distance from colonial power discourses has functioned as a strength for women artists who use their art to gaze back not only at colonial oppression of Indigeneity, but also at western art’s historical hegemonic male representation of women in the public cultural domain. Women artists do this by representing themselves. Fiona Foley, one of Australia’s foremost artists and a curator, academic and writer, has since the 1980s in her art confronted political issues of Indigeneity and identity as a woman in a cultural history of trauma and dispossession- bearing witness to her cultural heritage as a descendent of the Badtjala people, who were forcibly removed from K’gari or Thoorgine (Fraser Island) in the early twentieth century. The paper applies an innovative multimodal fugal critical analysis – drawing on psychological and musical meanings of fugue – to discuss Foley’s work; the paper draws on an interview the author conducted with Fiona Foley at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, including photographs of the artist and images of her work. The analysis focuses on Foley’s site specific installation at Cockatoo Island at the Sydney Biennale 2010, and her recent survey show at the MCA.

Keywords: Australian Contemporary Women Artists, Urban Aboriginal Australian Artists, Indigenous Art, Global Feminisms, Fugal Writing

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp.261-276. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.078MB).

Dr. Ruth Skilbeck

Sessional Lecturer, Communication Area, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, NSW, Australia

Dr. Ruth Skilbeck gained her PhD, on The Writer’s Fugue: Musicalization, Trauma and Subjectivity in the Literature of Modernity, from the University of Technology Sydney, where she also received an MA in Writing. She holds a Bachelors Honours degree in Philosophy from Birkbeck, University of London. She has wide experience in the international contemporary art world as an art writer and independent arts journalist. Currently based in Sydney and Newcastle, New South Wales, she has previously lived and worked as a freelance arts writer and journalist in London and Dublin. She works as a freelance lecturer and university teacher, and has recently received several grants including an Australia Council Visual Arts New Work grant 2009-10 to research and write on Australian contemporary women artists.


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