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CDU Art Collection and Art Gallery

Shock & ore

The Tennant Creek Brio
Shock & Core exhibition artwork

With an authoritative and defiant hand, Shock & ore bursts forth a hype of guerrilla theatre. It calls on the heroes of the old world and new. Archetypal champions claim the stage, parading their power and misadventure, alluding to a pastiche of conflict and pillage.

Painted story boards, fuel drums and TVs send up pipe dreams from the colonial project and hint at the collateral damage of its offensive. Angels and promises take wing only to be shot down in flames. Incantations from ashes manifest as jewels on paper with their iridescent coding and song maps. In this exhibition, the Brio bravely declare their stories of living culture from Country: a psalm of Ancestral power, alchemy and renewal.

The Tennant Creek Brio is an artist collective based on Warumungu Country in the town of Tennant Creek. They navigate their individual practices through a collective spirit of energetic and transformative work, captured by their name brio, a word meaning mettle, vigour or a sparkling vivacity of performance. The Brio collective honours connectivity. Their studio is a place of empowerment, brotherhood and dissemination.

The collective began as an Aboriginal men’s art therapy program in 2016 through Anyinginyi Aboriginal Health Organisation, under the direction of artist Rupert Betheras. This art therapy program targeted men with issues of alcohol and substance misuse. The creative depth of Joseph Williams along with the magical talent of Fabian Brown were instrumental in helping to give the collective traction among local men. By 2018, the program moved out of Anyinginyi and under Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre and the core Brio members — Marcus Camphoo, Simon Wilson, Lindsay Nelson, Clifford Thompson — were joined by master carver and cultural leader Jimmy Frank. His pedigree, and that of other invited artist-diplomats brought gravitas to their exposure at the 2020 Sydney Biennale.

Unconstrained by the usual conventions of central desert art, the Brio are action painters and visual story-tellers surviving the vestiges of colonial histories and outback mining town boom. They have big hearts against brutal odds and express their bravado and battles in a broad repertoire of imaginings and code. At times they appropriate eclectic archetypes of super villains and mystical creatures to play out narratives drawn from religious, cinematic and cultural chronicles. Utilising various discarded materials and debris from the backstreets of Tennant Creek and the underground mining labyrinths, they wrestle traumatic relics and the dark underbelly of the mining beast and its wreckage into a generative form of reconstruction and redemption.

Shock & ore is curated by Dr Erica Izett.

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