MASTER CRAFTSMAN: Artist Abe Muriata.
MASTER CRAFTSMAN: Artist Abe Muriata.

Clay Stories remote art arrive in Coffs

GIRRINGUN artist Abe Muriata was one of the special guests when the new Clay Stories exhibition opened at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery earlier this month.

Abe, one of the many contemporary indigenous clay artists who are part of the exhibition, was joined by fellow Girringun artist Nephi Denham at the opening.

The event was officially opened by Bruce Johnson-McLean, curator of indigenous Australian art at QAGOMA - the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, with other special guests Sabbia Gallery director Anna Grigson and Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre manager Valerie Keenan.

Coffs Harbour, the only NSW regional venue chosen, is the second last of six galleries around Australia to take the exhibition during its two-year journey.

The exhibition will be on display at Coffs until late July before finishing up at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery in October.

The exhibition, which started life in the Sabbia Gallery in Sydney, features artworks from 24 indigenous artists working in some of the remotest parts of Australia and includes the work of both established and emerging artists.

Artworks come from Ernabella Arts from the APY Lands in South Australia, Erub Arts on Darnley Island in the Torres Strait, Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre in Cardwell in the rainforests of Far North Queensland, Hermannsburg Potters from Hermannsburg in the Central Desert and Tiwi Design on Bathurst Island in the Arafura Sea, north of Darwin.

Clay Stories is an independent curatorial project developed by Sabbia Gallery, its exhibition curator Anna Grigson, five indigenous art centres and the Remote Communities Ceramic Network.

"This exhibition is a unique opportunity for Coffs Harbour residents to see art from some of the remotest parts of Australia, which are rarely exhibited outside of capital city galleries," said gallery curator Jo Besley.

Abe Muriata is a Girramay man from the Cardwell Range area in Northern Queensland.

He is a self-taught weaver of the lawyer cane jawun, exploring different techniques to create finely crafted bi-cornual baskets unique to the rainforest people.

Abe taught himself the weaving technique from watching his grandmother make them when he was a child and by studying old examples in museums and galleries.

As well as cane he uses other materials including ceramics and recycled and non-traditional materials.

"My work is grounded in my culture, which comes from the rainforest area of Far North Queensland," he said.

"I take pride in creating finely crafted woven lawyer cane baskets, known as jawun.

"These traditional bicornual baskets are the most perfect thing for me. When I am weaving the form, I am always working to maintain perfection. It is the weaving technique which allows me to achieve perfection. The work is very fine and I am stubbornly dedicated, making an icon that you don't see any more."

He said he takes similar care when working with clay.

"The ceramic works I create maintain the jawun form but use a different medium - clay," he said.

"The material provides a strong link between the ceramic forms and the traditional jawun because ceremonial jawun were often decorated with coloured ochres, as were other traditional objects such as shields and boomerangs."

Entry is free. Bookings can be made on the gallery website - go to Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery.

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