Protest art takes centre stage at Newcastle Art Gallery

28 Oct 2021

The deep-rooted tradition of activism through art is being put in the spotlight by a new exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery. 

The Art of Protest will explore how artists use their work to highlight injustices and challenge perceptions. 

From a political parody inspired by a pop music hit to works that make statements about climate change, asylum seekers or feminism, the exhibition examines a cross section of serious issues. 

Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton said the exhibition will feature works from the Gallery's own collection alongside key works loaned from politically engaged artists who have been mixing art and activism throughout their careers. 

"Newcastle Art Gallery has a reputation for delivering thought-provoking exhibitions that engage, educate and challenge audiences in many different ways," Ms Morton said. 

"From community activism to global social movements, The Art of Protest features past and present works from local, national and international artists who are responding to disaster and injustice and calling for change." 

The expansive exhibition showcases a variety of different artistic mediums including paintings, photography, linocut, sculpture, video and mixed media, which explore everything from worker's rights and HIV/AIDS awareness, to war, humanitarianism, colonialism, the Stolen Generation, animal welfare and LGBTQI rights. 

"Artists have always played a pivotal role as a voice of protest, from the early modernists and social realists tackling worker’s rights in the 1940s, to poster art of the 1970s, through to the current issues of the day including women’s rights, environmental policy, compassion for all Australians and the preservation of local heritage," Ms Morton said. 

"Recent works of art on display respond to events of the past few tumultuous years including the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent need for climate action. 

"The apocalyptic bushfires of 2020 were the tragic inspiration for a number of works by local artist Fiona Lee, whose family home near Taree was destroyed during the blaze. She utilised materials recovered from the ruins to create works that highlight and protest against the government's inaction on climate change." 

The Art of Protest will open on 30 October and remain on display at Newcastle Art Gallery until 30 January 2022. A free online talk on 4 November will feature artists Fiona Lee, Dani Marti and Anne Zahalka as they discuss the processes used to create their works on display in this exhibition.