Paper Armada sails into Gallery's collection

14 Aug 2018

A major new acquisition has sailed into Newcastle Art Gallery on a high tide of donor support.

Paper Armada 2015, a key work in the career of artist Alex Seton, has found safe harbour in Newcastle just over a year since the Gallery's director and the Newcastle Art Gallery Society called for community support to acquire the sculpture.

"This was truly a community effort," said Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes. "This work of art was purchased through the combined work and generosity of Council, the Gallery Society, the Gallery Foundation, our Gallery guides and numerous private donors from around the country.

"The work itself is stunning - both in its beauty but also in representing the perilous journeys refugees often take in unseaworthy boats, risking their lives to escape persecution."

Paper Armada, on display in the Gallery until 21 October, is an impressive large scale marble installation of 400 carved 'origami' style boats.

When Seton began work on the sculpture in 2015, this represented the approximate number of asylum seekers whose boats had been forcibly turned back by the enforcers of Operation: Sovereign Borders.

Seton is a nationally and internationally exhibited Sydney-based Australian artist. Considered an analogue artist living in a digital world, Seton is drawn to the sensory and tactile appeal of materials and believes that powerful emotion is attached to works of art made by the human hand.

Newcastle Art Gallery has a strong relationship with the artist, having developed his major solo exhibition The Island in 2017.

"We've coveted this work since it was first installed in the Gallery as part of The Island exhibition," said Gallery Director Lauretta Morton. "It was the star of the show.

"I am so proud that Newcastle has secured it for future generations to view and appreciate.

"People gave so willingly, some donors 'bought boats' on behalf of their grandchildren and partners, with several donors visiting the Gallery from interstate. The community support was a huge indicator to me that this was a nationally relevant work of art that we had to keep in Newcastle."

Paper Armada is the fourth work of art by Alex Seton to enter the city's collection. The first, Bake a nice cake - pram 2008, Bianco Carrara marble, was donated by the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation in 2008. Left Turn at Albuquerque 2017, a video work, was purchased with funds given by the community through the Gallery's voluntary coin donation box. Most recently, the artist donated Oilstone 04_Saturated 2016, made of Bianco Carrara marble, engine oil and a transparent acrylic tank.

Both Oilstone 04_Saturated 2016 and Paper Armada 2015 were included in the 2017 solo exhibition The Island, joining a group of works which were realised in the period leading up to the current peak in the global refugee crisis, made in response to issues of the day.

Images above:

1. Alex SETON 'Paper Armada' 2015 Bianco Carrara marble dimensions variable Newcastle Art Gallery collection

2. Artist Alex Seton and Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton with Gallery donors.