FireWorks Gallery Celebrating 25 Years of Exhibitions

Since 1993, FireWorks Gallery has been located in four spaces throughout Brisbane: George Street, CBD 1993-1995; Ann Street, Fortitude Valley 1995-2001; followed by Stratton Street 2002-2007 and later Doggett Street 2007-2018 (both in Newstead). Director Michael Eather comments that “the ongoing curatorial theme underpinning the gallery’s exhibition program and associated projects remains the desire to present artworks by Indigenous (remote and urban) and non-Indigenous artists alongside each other.” In 2003, Eather was listed in The Bulletin’s Arts & Entertainment Smart 100: They are the smartest, most creative and innovative people in Australia.

Eather co-curated the exhibition Balance 1990: Views, Visions, Influences at Queensland Art Gallery which led to the establishment of the Campfire Consultancy (1990-1993). This curatorial passage also fuelled Eather to establish a commercial space – FireWorks Gallery. In 2005, the exhibition and associated publication SHOOSH! The History of the Campfire Group at the Institute of Modern Art (IMA) Brisbane, celebrated the Campfire story. At George Street, the first two exhibitions were Political Works (with installation works acquired by UQ Art Museum) featuring Campfire Group artists Richard Bell, Michael Eather & Marshall Bell, followed by Rebels without a Course: David Paulson & his Rebel Art Students. In 1994, Eather curated Dialogue featuring Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Sue Elliot and Christopher Hodges followed by solo exhibitions by Lin Onus, Laurie Nilsen and Rod Moss. Joanne Currie Nalingu was the feature artist for the 1994 exhibition South West Queensland Stories; she was later awarded the AGNSW Wynne Prize for The River Is Calm in 2008 whilst Nilsen’s Goolburris on the Bungil Creek was the winner of the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award (NATSIAA) Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award in 2007. Throughout the early 90’s, Eather was also consultant to Griffith University for the establishment of a Bachelor Degree Course for Indigenous artists.

In 1995, Vincent Serico had his first solo exhibition Timeless Land at FireWorks, which was also the first exhibition at Ann Street.  Soon after, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri became an artist-in-residence. The following year, the Black Humour Campfire Group exhibition installation Fish ‘N’ Chips was exhibited whilst All Stock Must Go! was part of the 2nd Asia Pacific Triennial (APT) at the Queensland Art Gallery. Since then the National Museum of Australia has acquired some of these collaborative Campfire Group pieces.  Paddy Caroll Tjungurrayi and Michael Nelson Jagamara also created works for this APT. Jagamara returned as the solo artist for the 1999 3rd APT around the time that Simon Wright curated MNJ Without the Story, the Painting is Nothing, Brisbane City Gallery. Jagamara’s Moving Storm won the 2006 Tattersall’s Club Landscape Art Prize, Brisbane. Also in 1993, Eather acted as curatorial consultant to Urban Dingo: the art and life of Lin Onus 1948-1996 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (later touring to Melbourne and Brisbane). Jagamara and Imants Tillers commenced in 2001 their collaborative canvas board works in the Winn Street Studios in Fortitude Valley. This ongoing series was facilitated by Eather; 21 paintings have been completed, culminating in the 2017 exhibition, Meeting Place, at Parliament House Australia.

Stratton Street exhibited the 2002 Paddy Caroll Tjungurrayi Tribute Show featuring collaborations with Laurie Nilsen, Richard Bell, Michael Eather and Joanne Currie Nalingu. Major shows which followed included: Discomfort – Relationships within Aboriginal Art featuring Richard Bell, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Imants Tillers and Michael Nelson Jagamara in 2002, and, Bushfire: Ronnie Tjampitjinpa in 2003. Richard Bell, in the same year, won the NATSIAA; shortly after, the National Gallery of Australia acquired several of Bell’s pieces from the Discomfort exhibition. Eather co-founded and was a board member (along with Tom Lowenstein and Annie Gamble-Myer) of Newflames Inc Foundation (2003-2011) for Indigenous artist mentoring and residencies. Jenny Fraser was awarded the first residency, followed by Ian Waldron who was the winner of the 2010 Glover Art Prize with Walach Dhaarr. Other Newflame residency recipients included Tony Albert, Archie Moore and Christine Christopherson. Further major shows curated were Two Fields: Matthew Johnson & Kudditji Kngwarreye, and, Country in Mind: Dorothy Napangardi and Yvonne Mills-Stanley which was the final show at Stratton Street. Throughout this time, Eather also curated two major Surveys of Indigenous Art for Essl Museum in Vienna, Austria being 2001 Dreamtime, followed by 2004 Spirit & Vision.

FireWorks Gallery has developed a national and international reputation for exhibiting and promoting artworks by some of Australia’s best contemporary artists with works being acquired by major collections – public, corporate and private. Since 2007, the gallery has been nestled in a renovated warehouse space in the art and design hub on Doggett Street, Newstead. New artists are also exhibiting at Doggett Street, including Ben Somerville, Warlukurlangu Artists, Alick Sweet, Lockhart River Artists (Rosella Namok, Fiona Omeenyo, Samantha Hobson), Scott Redford, Pat Hoffie, Jennifer Herd, Glen Mackie and Michael Aird. FireWorks Gallery has reopened for its 2018 exhibition and events program with a group show. Currently touring Queensland regional galleries is the Vincent Serico exhibition Some People Are Stories. Upcoming exhibitions feature three solo artists Rosella Namok: Nature’s Way, Sharonne Solk: Violet Indigo Moss Series II, and, Lyell Bary: Guardians of the Secret 1999 – 2017. The Flower Show exhibition by Anthony Lister (Brisbane-born, Sydney-based street artist) will open in late March.

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Image: Two Fields Exhibition: Matthew Johnson and Kudditji Kngwarreye at FireWorks Gallery, Stratton Street, 2006.