Michael Riley’s practice has its base in photography and documentary film-making. In 1987 he played a key role in the formation of the grassroots Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative in Sydney, with the aim of promoting the works of urban and city-based Indigenous artists. Riley’s practice is marked by a commitment to the process of reconciliation, and draws on the essential spiritual value that the land holds for both black and white Australians. His works speak of resilience and survival, and bear witness to the enduring nature of the artist’s Aboriginal heritage. His photographic and cinematic work is a poetic expression of Indigenous struggle and human sensitivity.
Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art 2002
Queensland Art Gallery
Photograph: Matthew Kassay
More information about the artist
15 cibachrome photographs, ed. 1/1
61 x 51cm each; 58 x 38cm (comp.) each
Collection: The artist
Riley comes from Wiradjuri country — an area of undulating hills and broad valleys, creeks and fertile grasslands around Dubbo, New South Wales. Since colonisation, the Wiradjuri people have faced European diseases, massacres, and Christian missionaries as they struggled to remain in their ancestral country. Many, including Riley’s own parents, experienced the isolation and repression of life on government reserves. Riley’s photographic installation Sacrifice 1993 refers to this unwritten Aboriginal history. These 15 beautiful and enigmatic black-and-white images depict a series of highly symbolic motifs, including a fish, flowers, a crucifix and a headstone. The work suggests links between Christ’s suffering and death, and that of Riley’s own people, and questions the effects of the introduction of Christianity into Aboriginal communities.
18 min. 35 mm film transferred to DVD, sound
Composer: Andrew Partos
Courtesy: Indigenous Programs Unit, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney
10 inkjet prints on banner paper, ed. 1/10
125 x 86cm each
Collection: The artist
The colour photographic series Cloud 2000 expands on the themes investigated in Sacrifice 1993. The ten photographs depict objects such as a feather, an insect, a boomerang and a cow suspended against a brilliant blue sky. While some of the objects appear to relate to each other, others seem to have no relationship, denying the construction of a narrative. The major cinematic work Empire 1997 also presents a non-linear series of images. The film, described by the artist as a ‘soundscape’, evokes a powerful sense of place while resisting the construction of one specific meaning.
This artist is featured in the Education Resource Kit.
List of works in APT 2002
Artists and Works
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