Museums & Galleries Queensland and Gold Coast City Gallery are proud to present Saltwater Country.

Saltwater Country features works by sixteen acclaimed Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists – included in this group is a collaborative work by Erub Arts. It has been a privilege to work with each of these artists and to experience their unique stories and connectedness to their saltwater country. We thank them for their participation and for sharing their remarkable artworks with Australian and international audiences.

This exhibition is a major touring initiative for Museums & Galleries Queensland and Gold Coast City Gallery. The idea for Saltwater Country came from sector consultations which Museums & Galleries Queensland began in 2010, during which our regional gallery constituency identified the need for a high–quality touring exhibition of contemporary Queensland Indigenous art. With the bourgeoning success and recognition of Queensland’s Indigenous artists in national and international markets, the growth of art centres, and the success of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, there was significant demand for this work to be seen in the regional centres. At the same time, Gold Coast City Gallery was exploring the development of an Indigenous exhibition around notions of ‘country’ and sea – it was these synergies that led to our project partnership.

We acknowledge and thank curators Michael Aird & Virginia Rigney, and assistant curator Jo–Anne Driessens, for their tremendous commitment and insight in bringing this exhibition to fruition.

Delivering programs and services in today’s environment requires us to be strongly engaged in collaborative partnerships with our sector, with government, with funding agencies and with business. These relationships are essential to our effectiveness as an organisation, our ability to deliver high–quality initiatives, and our capacity to achieve individual goals and aspirations. It is with deep gratitude that we acknowledge our respective Staff and Boards for their outstanding work and support in undertaking this major project.

We acknowledge the exceptional support of our funding partners, the Australia Council for the Arts; the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy; the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland; the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; City of Gold Coast; and the vital contribution of all our sponsors and supporters of this important touring project.

We trust you enjoy Saltwater Country, its exquisite works of art and fascinating stories of country.

Rebekah Butler 
Executive Director
Museums & Galleries Queensland

John Walsh 
Gallery Manager
Gold Coast City Gallery

Curators' Foreword

As curators, both living in the young and elongated city of the Gold Coast, we share a place geographically and historically defined by magnificent beaches and rivers that wind through new canal estates to the calm Broadwater, with its maze of sand bars and dotted with mangrove islands – it truly is saltwater country. The idea to develop this exhibition came initially from the observation that there was extraordinary work being made by Queensland artists whose practice was enabling us to see such familiar places up and down the coast of this state in new and rich ways; making visible their connection to this country using original and contemporary expression, and inviting us to think differently about what had happened there in the past and how we might relate to it in the future.

We express our sincere thanks to all of the artists for their generosity and engagement with us over the long development of this exhibition. Most of the works are new, and we especially thank the Australia Council for the Arts for the support given to Ken Thaiday for the creation of his sculptures, and to Arts Queensland for supporting the development of the Weres artwork by Erub Arts.

We thank all of the gallerists who have been extremely supportive in making these works available for the exhibition tour, and to Patrick Corrigan AM for lending his very large painting by Mavis Ngallametta. We acknowledge artists Vernon Ah Kee, Judy Watson, Alick Tipoti and Laurie Nilsen who assisted us at different times throughout the project with general professional advice. We also express our sincere thanks to our colleagues at Museums & Galleries Queensland and Gold Coast City Gallery for their great logistical, programming and marketing support.

This project has grown in many ways beyond the presentation of artworks in a gallery space. At the Gold Coast, with the support of City of Gold Coast and Gold Coast Waterways Authority, we conducted an artist camp led by Judy Watson for emerging Indigenous artists from our region, and an exhibition of this work in process was very ably curated by Jo–Anne Driessens and presented as the South Stradbroke Island Artist Camp Exhibition.

We anticipate that, as Saltwater Country tours, many other venues will conduct similar projects and that a legacy of this exhibition will be the conversations to be had and the new works to be made in these communities that are also shaped by their relationship to water.

Michael Aird & Virginia Rigney
Saltwater Country Curators