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Friday 8 November 2019

Installation view of the exhibition Belonging at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Photo: Mim Stirling.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is delighted to present Belonging, an exhibition that brings together two artist-initiated projects that present the voices and experiences of young people.

The exhibition comprises two projects involving young artists who have experienced displacement and upheaval. In making art about their experiences, they are sharing their stories on their terms and asking that they be seen.

The first project Home: drawings by Syrian children makes visible the thoughts, memories, hopes and fears of young people displaced by the conflict in Syria. The 340 drawings on display were brought together by Australian painter Ben Quilty following his visits to refugee camps and transit centres in Lebanon, Greece and Serbia.

The second project, a video work entitled By your side 2019, has been co-created by artist Claudia Nicholson and six young people from families seeking asylum in Australia. It builds on a series of workshops, organised by the Art Gallery of NSW at the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown and Fairfield Public School, which explored the idea of ‘belonging’. This is the first time an artwork realised through the Gallery’s engagement programs has been exhibited in the building.

Art Gallery of NSW director Dr Michael Brand said the exhibition is a moving example of how art and artists can connect with people and communities.

“Prominently displayed at the threshold of our Australian collection galleries, Belonging welcomes visitors to the Gallery and invites reflection on what it is to belong and be heard,” Brand said.

“The Art Gallery of NSW is a place for everyone. This exhibition brings together the Gallery, artists, young people and their families, and organisations like the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown and Fairfield Public School in an inspiring and thoughtful manner. I would like to thank everyone involved for their commitment to the collaboration,” Brand added.

Artist Claudia Nicholson often collaborates with performers and community groups such as choirs and dancers to create works that celebrate their shared experience. In By your side six young people perform a dance that they choreographed with each other. They dance in pairs, with their sister or cousin, and are dressed in their own clothes with lo-fi disguises.

By your side looks to what lies between us and looks forward towards the future. It acknowledges the sense of belonging that exists in the connection and intimacies between people. What it means to belong was found in getting together each week and this is reflected in the openness and joyousness of the dancer’s gestures.” Nicholson said.

“It was a privilege to work with these creative, sensitive and expressive young people. I am looking forward to working together again soon as part of the Welcome Program” Nicholson added.

The Gallery committed to working with the Asylum Seeker Centre, Newtown in July 2018 to develop the Welcome Program, a targeted and ongoing program for refugees and recently arrived migrants who are seeking asylum in Australia. Nicholson’s work By your side is the latest pilot project within the Welcome Program, which aims to provide positive experiences through art.

ASC chief executive officer Frances Rush OAM said the partnership with the Gallery and working with Nicholson to tell the stories of young people seeking asylum has been enormously rewarding.

“The reality is that while people wait for their claim for protection to be assessed, they are living in limbo. They are between stories, which is never an easy space. This exhibition and the process has all been focused around building connections and expressions of joy.

“To me, this partnership is so important because the Art Gallery of NSW is welcoming the families we work with but also acknowledging the importance and value of their experiences and stories,” Rush said.

On view
9 Nov 2019 – 9 Feb 2020
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney


Media contact

Hannah McKissock-Davis
Tel 02 9225 1671