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October 17, 2019

Tarnanthi for teens: How AGSA works with contemporary artists to engage young minds

Contemporary Aboriginal artist Elizabeth Close has curated Tarnanthi's youth-focussed Neo Deadly Halloween event to explore the concept of transformation while embracing the perspective-shifting power of the artwork within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander exhibition.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Supplied

Contemporary Aboriginal artist and Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara woman, Elizabeth Close, came to art in a roundabout way.

She failed art class in year 8 and progressed through her teen years into adulthood without considering that art would become her profession. After a decade of working in nursing, she did eventually come back to art and developed a self-taught practice that has flourished into a career of its own.


Neo Deadly Halloween
6pm-8:30pm Saturday, 26 October
North Terrace, Adelaide 5000

More info

This year she was asked to curate Tarnanthi’s Neo Deadly Halloween event, where she will work with teenagers to help engage and immerse them in the culture of art, and of the Art Gallery of South Australia itself.

“Programs like this I think are just fantastic, because there are creative kids out there who were like me, who were creative, but were really bound to practice in a really prescriptive, didactic, un-engaging way, rather than allowing students to really immerse themselves and allow them to express themselves within a program like this,” Elizabeth says.

Elizabeth’s program for the Tarnanthi edition of ASGA’s long-running Neo series riffs on the Halloween theme by exploring the concept of transformation. She has programmed workshops on costume making from recycled materials with The Bait Fridge, special-effects makeup with Alex Beckinsale, and she and Tarnanthi education officer, Thomas Readett, will lead a group of teens through the process of transforming the urban landscape through large-scale mural making and digital design.

“What we’re going to be doing is using the iPads and the iPad software and then projecting that through, so we can understand that concept and the connection between creating something like a creative artwork, and then scaling it up,” Elizabeth says.

“And to be able to transform the cityscape and the urban landscape to become part of the artwork.”

Thomas will also lead an aerosol workshop that deals with portraiture as a self-expressive art form.

“Through my workshop, I’ll be doing abstracted portraiture. The teens will be directed to either paint one of their friends or someone around them, or a fragment of their own face, on a large mural that we’re going to be doing,” he says.

“It’s going to be very interesting just to see how they interact with it and what they start to notice when they’re looking at their friend for a certain amount of time. If you stare into someone’s eyes, you start to see things you might not have seen or even figured out through conversations.”

Neo will also see the teens explore the Gallery’s Tarnanthi exhibition, which Elizabeth describes as an important element of contemporary Australian arts culture for people of all ages to engage with.

“As a modern Australian discourse, we’re becoming cognisant of Aboriginal art in the contemporary art space, and spending time with the Neo team ambassadors, they’ve really clicked into that, and they’re really switched on to just how important and transformative and informative contemporary Aboriginal art is, so [Neo and Tarnanthi] go really well together,” she says.

“I know so many people who will make comments like they didn’t really understand anything about Aboriginal art or Aboriginal culture more broadly, they didn’t learn anything about it at school, and their understanding of Aboriginal art and culture has been something that they’ve come to through their own experiences, so getting kids while they’re young adults and coming into that space I think is really important.”

“Tarnanthi, just being our Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander art exhibition, it’s an incredible opportunity for students to be able to be exposed to First Nations artists, artists that have incredible stories to tell and very important histories to tell as well,” Thomas continues.

“No matter what they’ve heard previously, they might come along to Tarnanthi and they might have things that they’ve heard before challenged by Tarnanthi, and it’s just a whole new scope of experience for them to be able to hear from these artists and hear directly from the artists who have these stories to tell.”

AGSA’s Neo Deadly Halloween event is happening on Saturday, 26 October and is limited to kids aged 13-17. If you’ve got a creative teen-aged niece, nephew, son, daughter or associate in your life, you can find further information at the AGSA website.

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