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Defying Empire: NGA launches next new kids' space

When Indigenous artist Reko Rennie was a teenager growing up in the western suburbs of Melbourne he was consumed by American culture and influenced by graffiti art.

"In the mid-1980s in Footscray, I was already listening to hip-hop and break dancing," he said.

And now those influences, and that of Rennie's art, have inspired the next installation of the Play space at the National Gallery of Australia in conjunction with the major exhibition Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial which opens on May 26.

This play space is very different from the delicate and pretty tiny Hall of Mirrors erected for Versailles: Treasures from the Palace.

It's a blindingly vibrant exhibit, glaring even, that will perhaps appeal to older children who share Rennie's interest in graffiti art.

Children can form patterns with magnetised shapes, learn words from the Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay/Gummaroi language, use stamps to make their own mark, immerse themselves in changing light displays and work on tablets to create and share their own artwork.

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NGA deputy director Kirsten Paisley said the Play space was a chance to explore traditional designs from a fresh new perspective.

"It's going to be a colourful, immersive space - and it also captures a strong sense of contemporary Indigenous identity which is relevant as we mark 50 years since the 1967 Referendum, a Constitutional change which saw the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Census."

Thirteen-year-old Gryffen Marin, of Queanbyean, just thought it was "pretty cool".

Rennie is one of 30 artists from across the country showing in Defying Empire. The artwork in NGA Play links back to his recent work OA_RR 2017 that features a functioning 1973 Rolls Royce with camouflage design (with traditional diamond shapes) that will be displayed in the foyer during the exhibition which runs until September 10.

More than 41,000 people went through the Versailles play space, the first time the exhibit was held in the foyer.