‘Story, Place’

Curated by Jenn Ellis & Tony Albert

Presented by Sullivan + Strumpf

Tony Albert, Shiraz Bayjoo, Edgar Calel, Gunybi Ganambarr, Lindy Lee, Naminapu Maymuru-White; Angela Tiatia, Jemima Wyman.

Exhibition 6th – 21th October, Frieze No.9 Cork Street, London, 2023

‘Story, Place’, No.9 Cork Street, London, 2023. Curated by Jenn Ellis & Tony Albert. Photography by James Retief

“The exhibition is a collective moment, bringing together various voices with distinct yet shared experiences to reflect and respond to the narratives created, prescribed, passed on, around the places they are from..” – Jenn Ellis

‘Story, Place’ is a group exhibition conceived by renowned Australian artist Tony Albert and curator Jenn Ellis taking place in 9 Cork Street, London (6 – 21 October 2023). Bringing together a group of preeminent contemporary artists from around the globe, ‘Story, Place’ is a collective consideration of creation, resilience, and regenerative spirit. This exhibition presents a powerful dialogue of Indigenous and diasporic voices, each exploring land, ancestry, and belief within the contemporary context of Frieze London.

An exhibition in three parts, ‘Story, Place’ begins with a consideration around earth, materiality and our relationship with our places or origin. Setting this tone upon entrance is the work of Naminapu Maymuru-White, of the Maŋgalili clan, which references the ‘outside or public version of the Maŋgalili. Using the miny’tji or sacred clan design for the sandscapes of Djarrakpi, Maymuru-White’s bark piece and forest of larrakitj in the heart of the exhibition place the night sky and sea at the centre, evoking the soul’s journey from life to death to rest to rebirth as conducted through water. Consciousness and connection to the night sky and Milky Way is also explored by the work of Lindy Lee, a second generation Chinese Australian artist who reflects on our understanding of the cosmos using elements of fire and water. Presenting an intricate golden wall-based installation that conveys a splatter gesture. Lee’s work embodies the Buddhist act of renewal, where all that is held inside oneself is released. Developed by throwing searing molten bronze onto the foundry floor, Lee’s mark-marking emphasises one’s presence in the moment.

Shiraz Bayjoo, Tony Albert and Angela Tiatia. Photography by James Retief

Similarly thinking about our relationship with ancestry, land but also materiality is the work of Gunybi Ganambarr of the Ŋaymil people. Beginning his artistic career painting on bark and larrakitj, Ganambarr has extended his practice with an experimental and innovative use of reclaimed materials. Presented in ‘Story, Place’ is an intricate wall-hanging work made of a reclaimed aluminium road sign. Fusing clan designs with his own visual vocabulary, Ganambarr sets out to capture the distinctive dynamics of a living landscape. Serial notches gouged into the surface create a vivid geometry that refers to the sacred waters around Gängan, the land of his mother’s people. Equally thinking about the reworking of available material is the work of Jemima Wyman, a palawa woman, with paternal descendants from the pairrebeener people of tebrakunna, and poredareme. Presented is a work from her ‘Plume’ series, which are created by collecting hundreds of images of protest, referenced and collaged to create the visual of a cloud. Focusing on patterns and masking to investigate visual resistance, Wyman uses camouflage as a formal, social and political strategy in negotiating identity.

Moving to conversations around origins, place, subjugation and hope is the work of Edgar Calel, of the Mayan Kaqchikel cosmovision. Edgar Calel’s new series of works is titled Runojel xa xti jotayimpe, Runojel xa xti tzolimpe, chuech ri ruach’ulew (Everything Will Blossom, Everything Will Reappear Before the Face of the Earth). In these canvases of varying scales, the artist -in conversation with his family- have painted a series of landscapes, objects, relics, concepts, and experiences, which are of spiritual importance to them and to the wider Maya Kaqchikel peoples. The paintings are then covered almost entirely with clay collected by the family in a forest surrounding their hometown Chixot (San Juan Comalapa) which they consider to be sacred, revealing only some minor brush strokes to the viewer’s eye, but not enough to make out the images altogether. And it is Calel’s intention for the earth in the paintings to fall off bit by bit over time, only revealing the depicted images – and the knowledge embedded within – when we are ready to fully grasp its significance. 

Lindy Lee, Tony Albert, Jemima Wyman, Shiraz Bayjoo and Gunybi Ganambarr Photography by James Retief

Continuing the conversation around systems of power and possession is the work of Angela Tiatia. An artist of Samoan and Australian descent, Tiatia explores representation, gender, neo-colonialism and the commodification of the body and place. Presented in ‘Story, Place’ are two performative films on loop, ‘Holding On’ (2015) and ‘Lick’ (2015). ‘Holding On’ created in 2015 on Funafuti – the main atoll of Tuvalu, an archipelago halfway between Australia and Hawai’i – shows the artist lying uneasily on a cement slab as the surrounding ocean laps and washes over her. Capturing the struggle between the body of the artist and the body of the ocean as the tide rises, it intends to highlight the plight of Pacific people holding onto their lands in light of global warming. 

Tying these considerations around land, history and crucially hope are two major installations by Tony Albert and Shiraz Bayjoo. On the foremost wall in the gallery is a monumental work by Tony Albert of the Kuku Yalanji people. Albert’s installation, his first to ever be presented in London, engages with political, historical and cultural Aboriginal and Australian history, and his fascination with kitsch “Aboriginalia”. Drawing on both personal and collective histories, Albert’s practice considers the ways in which optimism might be utilised to overcome adversity. His work poses crucial questions such as how do we remember, give justice to, and rewrite complex and traumatic histories. Equally reconsidering histories is the work of Shiraz Bayjoo, a Mauritian artist based in London. Exhibiting an installation first shown at the 2019 Sharjah Biennial, Shiraz Bayjoo presents an amalgamation of photographs, paintings, working with repurposed archival displays. With a focus on unearthing the history of the Indian Ocean, especially its island archipelagos such as Mauritius and Madagascar, Bayjoo reworks Western narratives and orientalist tropes.

Ultimately, the exhibition is a collective moment, bringing together various voices with distinct yet shared experiences to reflect and respond to the narratives created, prescribed, passed on, around the places they are from. ‘Story, Place’ is an ongoing exploration of tales and their origins, from earth to humanity, and a conscious moment of where we are going from here. 

Text by Jenn Ellis

The exhibition is a collaborative initiative by the artists, Sullivan+Strumpf gallery, Indigenous community art centre Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre in Australia’s Northern Territory and Apsara Studio. Additional support has been provided from Creative Australia.

About Tony Albert

Drawing on both personal and collective histories, Tony Albert’s multidisciplinary practice considers the ways in which optimism might be utilised to overcome adversity. His work poses crucial questions such as how do we remember, give justice to, and rewrite complex and traumatic histories? Albert’s commitment to connecting and collaborating with other Indigenous artists and the wider community within his practice, has made him an integral part of Australia’s visual arts sector and the wider Australian community. This commitment was recently acknowledged by Griffith University who awarded him an honorary doctorate for his achievements in the arts. Albert is the first Indigenous artist on the board of trustees for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a member of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Indigenous advisory, a board member for the City of Sydney’s Public Art Panel and member of the Queensland Children’s Hospital Arts in Health committee.

About Sullivan + Strumpf 

Sullivan+Strumpf is a leading contemporary art gallery with spaces in Sydney and Melbourne, and itinerant programming in Singapore and London. Founded in 2005 by co-directors Ursula Sullivan and Joanna Strumpf, the gallery is committed to presenting a dynamic exhibition program, representing over 40 engaging and culturally significant artists and estates from across the Asia-Pacific.

With unwavering dedication to a progressive and compelling schedule of over 30 exhibitions annually, Sullivan+Strumpf has helped foster the careers of some of the most prominent contemporary artists working in Australia, Southeast Asia and beyond. As a complement to the diverse and innovative exhibition program, the gallery publishes a bi-monthly magazine; hosts public talks and participatory workshops; and partakes in key national and international art fairs. Regularly consulting to major public and private museums, Sullivan+Strumpf acts in an advisory capacity to public and private collections internationally.

About 9 Cork Street 
Launched in October 2021, No.9 Cork Street is Frieze’s first permanent exhibition space for international galleries in the historic heart of Mayfair, London. Selvi May Akyildiz is the Director of No.9 Cork Street. Designed by architecture studio Matheson Whiteley, No.9 Cork Street is housed across two converted townhouses and spread across three floors. Throughout the year, we host an ambitious programme of exhibitions and projects organised by the world’s leading galleries.