Skip to main content

John Curtin Gallery – Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy

Media release

The John Curtin Gallery and MUMA (Monash University Museum of Art) will present a major survey exhibition of the work of Bidjara artist, Christian Thompson, one of Australia’s leading and most intriguing contemporary artists.

Perth audiences will have the opportunity to view photographic, video and sound-based works by this major artist. Thompson interweaves themes of identity, race and history with his lived experience. Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy explores the unique perspective and breadth of Thompson’s practice from the fashioning of identity through to his ongoing interest in Indigenous language as the expression of cultural survival.

Featuring a major commission created for this exhibition, Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy surveys Thompson’s diverse practice and is also accompanied by the first monograph on the artist’s work, including essays by Brian Catling RA and Professor Dame Marina Warner DBE, CBE, FBA, FRSL. The specially commissioned installation is an ambitious multichannel composition, developing the sonic experimentation that is a signature of Thompson’s work.

Incorporating Bidjara language, it will invite viewers into an immersive space of wall-to-wall imagery and sound.

“Bidjara is officially an endangered language but my work is motivated by the simple yet profound idea that if even one word of an endangered language is spoken it continues to be a living language,” Thompson says.

The new multichannel work develops musical ideas Thompson has previously explored.

“It will be a much more ambitious iteration of a song in Bidjara. At one stage I’m singing on one screen and then other versions of me appear singing the melodies. I really see it as an opportunity to do something that’s more complex musically, more textured sonically – I also want it to be more intricate with my use of language,” the artist says.

Ritual Intimacy is curated by MUMA director Charlotte Day and guest curator Hetti Perkins.

Day explains that the exhibition was part of MUMA’s Australian artist series.

“Christian’s exhibition traces a particularly productive period of research and development, from early well-known works such as the Australian Graffiti series to more recent experiments with language in sound and song works,” Day says.

A long-time curatorial collaborator with Thompson, Perkins is the writer and presenter of art + soul, the ABC’s acclaimed television series about contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Thompson was accepted to Oxford University on an inaugural Charlie Perkins Scholarship, set up to honour Hetti Perkins’s famous father – a leader, activist and the first Aboriginal Australian to graduate from university.

Perkins says the MUMA exhibition is well-earned recognition for Thompson’s work, which she featured in the second series of art + soul.

“Christian has spent periods of his adult life, as a practicing artist, away from home, but there is a common thread in his work, and it’s this connection to home or Country,” Perkins says.

“In terms of the rituals or rites of the exhibition title, he is constantly reiterating that connection to home – through words, through performance, through his art, through ideas and writing,” she says.

Alongside performance and ritual, Thompson’s concept of “spiritual repatriation” is central to his work.

Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy at John Curtin Gallery is made possible through the support of the John Curtin Gallery’s Principal Presenting Partner Navitas Ltd and supported by the JCG Founders’ Club.

The exhibition is featured at the John Curtin Gallery until 21 July 2019.