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First Indigenous winner of century-old fellowship decolonising objects through art

Rachael Knowles -

For the first time in its 100-year history the NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship has been awarded to a First Nations artist.

Kamilaroi man Dennis Golding has been awarded the $30,000 Fellowship by Artspace Sydney and Create NSW for his work Cast in cast out, an installation of work Golding plans to develop with the Fellowship funding.

"I'm really excited about where it is leading to next and how I can use the Fellowship to really expand the project," he said.

Being the first Indigenous recipient of the award, Golding felt both humbled and confused.

"I guess I had that question of why weren't there any before me? There's been 100 years of this award being shared in NSW ... but this is a huge achievement for me, and it extends to family, community and to the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Sector," he said.

"I hope it can lead into more opportunities where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be represented in these positions in contemporary arts."

"I hope that I'm not the only one, I want to see other artists who are supported in their practice and get the chance to feel how I'm feeling and be inspired to share our true history."

Golding began creating at the age of three, taking on the craft shared by his mother and grandmother.

"My interest in art first grew in Redfern. My Mum and grandmother are also painters. I remember growing up, they were commissioned to do local artworks around the Block," he said.

A cultural icon of Redfern, the Block was a central meeting place for Aboriginal activists throughout the 1960s and was also the scene of the 2004 Redfern riots over the death of TJ Hickey.

"I played football for a while into my teenage years but I realised art was a much more interesting field to pursue a career in, and having my mum as a painter really inspired me to keep practicing. She passed me the paintbrush at the age of three."

Golding drew inspiration for Cast in cast out from his connection to Redfern and his experience living in the Block.

Dennis Golding's installation, Cast in Cast out. Photo supplied

Pulling together Victorian cast iron panels resembling the terrace homes he has lived in, Golding's work reflects concepts of colonial occupation and western land structures alongside Aboriginal connection, community and stories of dispossession.

"When I brought it out of the studio space and into the gallery ... it was such an empowering moment. Realising the importance of storytelling in the work ... it isn't just my story driven from my own memory, it's shared lived experience from family and community," said Golding.

"What I really aim for the panels to be is to act as vessels to be part of that conversation to talk about memory and lived experience of Aboriginal people.

"Although these objects are a colonial object in a sense, what I am trying to do is decolonise them to make them my own, to bring that back and realise that these objects can be Aboriginal objects through that experience of living in that environment."

NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin celebrated Golding's win.

"Congratulations to Dennis Golding. The Fellowship will support his research and tell important stories of his people through the exploration of contemporary Aboriginal cultural identity," Minister Harwin said.

Free to the public, Cast in cast out will be on display alongside the seven other Fellowship finalists at Artspace, Sydney until December 13 2020.

By Rachael Knowles


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