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9 January, 2021

Art inspired by Country

NEXT week marks the last opportunity to view a beautiful exhibition of art by Cairns artist Susan Reys at UMI Arts.


Artist Susan Reys.

Acrylic paintings on canvas and ceramics encompass an exquisite body of work by Reys in her first solo exhibition.

The exhibition titled, ‘Duliny the Artist: Susan Reys’ started in December and finished on January 16, and is the culmination of the artist’s participation in UMI Arts ‘Exhibition Ready’ program completed during the COVID-19 lockdown under the mentorship of curator, Trish Barnard.

“Although Susan is a very experienced ceramicist who has been operating her successful retail business ‘K’gari 3 Sisters’ for many years, this is, rather surprisingly, the artist’s first ever solo exhibition,” Ms Barnard said.

“Her works are inspired by various symbols found on rock art and carved trees within ‘country’ and the marks made in the sand during traditional storytelling,” she said.

According to Ms Barnard, it was during one of Susan Reys’ regular visits to her traditional Guugu Yimithirr homelands, that she collected ochre clay from a creek on country and then through experimentation and a new technical direction, produced a range of exciting new works.

“These works pay homage to ‘Matji the Rainmaker’, her great grandfather at Starcke who Susan described as a man of dignity and stature in his community who endured through the time of colonisation.”

In advance of her exhibition debut, Ms Reys said she feels privileged to know her family history and bloodline. 

“When we used to return to my great grandfather’s land at Starcke I was always excited to learn what I could from my Elders. Mum and my uncle taught us stories and customs for spiritually connecting to the land and taught us how to listen carefully to the ancestor,” Ms Reys said.

Susan Reys’ Aboriginal language name is Duliny, which means owl. Her totems are the waandaar (White Cockatoo) and dolphin. Her blood-line includes the Jirrbal, Butchulla, and the Guugu Yimithirr from the Dharrpa Warra clan.

The UMI Arts ‘Exhibition Ready’ program guides and mentors artists through each step of gallery exhibition preparation, presentation and promotion, whilst working towards a six week long exhibition at UMI Arts Galleries in Cairns.

UMI Arts is the peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultural organisation for Far North Queensland. Membership based, UMI Arts’ members are Queensland’s First Peoples with a traditional blood-line connection to the region.


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