A new exhibition of paintings, photographs and sculptures inspired by Australia’s largest freshwater fish, the Murray cod, will be shown at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum from 18 April 2008.
Murray Cod: the biggest fish in the river is a rich showcase of visual art inspired by Australia’s most iconic fish. Consisting of over 40 works by 27 artists, this unique exhibition examines the significance of the fish that has come to symbolise the Murray River itself, and documents the relationship that inland Australians have with the cod.
Exhibition curator and Museum Victoria Producer, John Kean, explains the exhibition’s story: “The show includes some of the first illustrations of the Murray cod by European scientists and explorers, as well as the ongoing association of Indigenous people with the fish. We also continue the story into more recent times, when the fish has been harvested commercially and has been a target for anglers. Collectively, these works tell of a great fish, with a mouth as big as any storyteller and a tail as long as any yarn.”
“While its environment has changed markedly and the fish may no longer dominate the river as in years gone by, the Murray cod continues to hold a special place in the nation’s imagination.”
Major highlights of the Murray Cod exhibition include:
• A specially commissioned series of eight large images by international award-winning Australian artist and photo-journalist Narelle Autio.
• The first public viewing of a selection of significant drawings and lithographs by colonial artist and naturalist Ludwig Becker (who perished on Burke and Wills’ journey across inland Australia), from Museum Victoria’s collections. It was the discovery of Becker’s signed lithographic proof that inspired this exhibition.
• A striking selection of works predominantly created by Indigenous artists that explore their spiritual and personal association with the Murray cod and its river, including:
o An oversized Murray cod sculpture made from recycled materials by Lorraine Connelly-Northey
o Paintings and prints by Ian Abdulla that depict his family hunting, fishing and working on Riverland farms
o Sedge grass weavings by Yvonne Koolmatrie who grew up in camps along with river and who learned the customary art of weaving at a time when just a handful of older women held the traditional technique
o Carved and painted emu eggs by Bluey Roberts (Yvonne’s brother) who has cultural associations with both the Western Desert and the river, through his Ngarrindgeri inheritance
o Paintings by Kurwingie Kerry Giles, an Ngarrindgeri woman from the Lower Murray whose work depicts the creation of the river downstream from its junction with the Darling.
o Lino-cut prints of the Murray cod using geometric patterns to create an image of the fish moving slowly in deep water consuming its favoured food – freshwater crayfish – created by Badger Bates
• A slide show of historic photographs that provides a profound insight into the cultural and social importance of fishing for Murray cod. The slide show invites visitors to the gallery to share their own cod tales.
This is the last opportunity to see Murray Cod following its 18-month tour along the Murray from Swan Hill to Mildura and Albury to Adelaide. National Exhibitions Touring Support (NETS) Victoria has provided funding for the development of this exhibition through Arts Victoria’s Touring Victoria program and has managed the exhibition’s tour. A beautifully illustrated “codalogue” will be available to purchase in Melbourne Museum’s shop for just $10.
Murray Cod: the biggest fish in the river will show at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum from 18 April to 27 July 2008
Melbourne Museum, Nicholson Street, Carlton. Open 10.00am to 5.00pm daily.
$6 Adults, FREE children and concession. Visit www.museumvictoria.com.au or phone 13 11 02.