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Adam Rish


Adam Rish has exhibited around Australia since 1975. He is represented in many major Australian collections and has won numerous awards. He has worked in collaboration with Aboriginal painters like Fred Tjakamarra from Balgo, and Hector Jandany and Lily Karadada from the Kimberley. He also designs textiles, including kilims made in Konya, Turkey, ikat weavings from Sumba and tapa cloth, with Palema Tualau, in Tonga. Since 2004 he has worked with Mexican potter Lino Alvarez at Hill End, Australia. Since 2007 he has made wooden sculptures, based upon South-East Asian tribal imagery, made in collaboration with I Wayan Sumantra, in Ubud, Bali. Rish’s interest is in cross-cultural collaboration as “World Art” (like World Music) to affirm indigenous culture, regional diversity and the possibility of productive intercultural relations. He takes traditional techniques and adapts them by employing modern images, so that cars, planes and TV sets, for example, might take the place of traditional abstractions of flowers, birds and clouds. The collaborative works are discussed with his co-artists and the images relate to their environment, media and traditional iconography. Rish’s contribution is to place these events in a contemporary context by inserting the kartiya (white person) elements: Thus, in the exhibition Toyota Dreamings, a Guirirr Guirirr ceremony Dewari (devil) appears on The Midday Show, an owl reads the late, late, news, while a Wandjina figure alights from a Weber barbecue flying saucer carrying Erich von Däniken’s guidebook. In the ceramic Mimbres Man (1994) an armless figure with a television face hops around on a long curling tail, while in Kumete an anthropomorphic chicken is surrounded by bone televisions. His sculpture, My Kingdom for a Horse (2007) presents a wooden horse riding backwards on the back of a blind king. Noah (2007) has only a climate changed desert to walk his boat over. Totem (2007) is based upon an Asmat house pole; it has A K – 4 7 wings and a stack of cars, phones, houses and soldiers positioned beneath a little king. Metamorphosis (2007) has a Kafkaesque cockroach writing a book made out of his hand. Vanity Eunuch (2007) is a glass coffee table supported by a kneeling Narcissus staring into a palette-shaped mirror. While Rish’s work revels in both exotic and graphic elements, in fact these forms are not exotic to the tribal societies of their origin. This art is integral to the groups’ collective cultural consciousness and, as such, draws spiritual and visual authority from this certainty of meaning. Rish believes this strong cultural identity has significance for us all.

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