Refugees exhibition to open at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre this winter

Showcasing the work of over 20 artists from refugee backgrounds, Casula Powerhouse will present a free exhibition, featuring 65 works that aim to humanise both the current refugee crisis and similar situations from global history.

With 22 international and Australian artists behind the 65 works on display, over 120 years of refugee history will be on display at the south west Sydney centre.
The ultimate goal is to generate discussion around a fairly uncomfortable and heavily politicised topic, through both contemporary and historical links. Liverpool City Council Mayor Ned Mannoun also hopes that the exhibition will encourage social and community ties on a local level.

“As more migrant and refugee communities are now calling Liverpool their new home, Liverpool aims to lead the way in social cohesion and community harmony initiatives.” he says. “[…] The Refugees exhibition will be a powerful mechanism in engaging the community through the exhibition, public programs and national forum.”

Casula Powerhouse is located in one of the most diverse local government areas in Australia, with some 150 languages spoken in the locality. It’s something that’s reflected in other events held at the Powerhouse, which include The Iraqi Cultural Festival, Afro Latino Festival, Refugee Artist Markets and the Italian Film Festival. Of the additional 12,000 Syrian refugees the Australian government pledged to take in last year, New South Wales will accept almost half of them, with Liverpool and Fairfield in particular set to welcome the new arrivals.
All this makes it the perfect venue for an exhibition of this kind.

Each of the artists featured has their own tale to tell. Yoko Ono was exiled from Tokyo during the great fire-bombing of March 9, 1945 and sheltered with other family members in a bunker; whilst Frank Auerbach was seven years old his parents sent him by train to the UK after which they died in concentration camps. Dinh Q. Le escaped the Khmer Rouge in 1978 when he was ten years old, Max Ernst was arrested by the Gestapo but managed to escape with the help of Peggy Guggenheim and Khadim Ali was raised in exile in Pakistan, where his grandparents had escaped to following a massacre of Hazaras in Afghanistan.

The international roster of artists also includes Ai Weiwei, Marc Chagall, Anish Kapoor, and Lucien Freud, alongside Australian-based artists Guo Jian and Ah Xian, who have created pieces specifically for the exhibition. All in all, it’s an incredible list of heavy hitters, both past and present, in the art world.

Curator of the exhibition, Toni Bailey says: “This exhibition not only tells the stories of these significant artists with refugee backgrounds but will reflect the achievements and contributions of refugees to our community as a whole. By acknowledging the invaluable contributions of these artists who share a refugee background, ‘Refugees’ provides a context to discuss the often-misunderstood plight of asylum seekers.”

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Refugees will open at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre on July 29th and will run until September 11th.
Entry is free, and a public program of events to run alongside the exhibition is also being organised. More information can be found at the Casula Powerhouse website.

Beyond Refuge: Citizens will also run at the venue during the same period, a exhibition of photo-media and visual arts from local, Sydney-based artists, who are all former refugees, current asylum seekers and first generation Australians whose families fled war to settle here. Find out more here.

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Header Image (L to R): Images courtesy of Art Gallery of New South Wales & National Gallery of Australia
Guo Jian, Trigger happy IX, 1999. oil on canvas, 180 x 200cm.
Marc Chagall, Paysage bleu (Blue Landscape), 1958. Colour lithograph, 57.6 x 75.4cm.
Christian Boltanski, Bathtime, 1991. Gelatin silver photograph, biscuit box, lamp and electric wires, installation.
Khadim Ali, Untitled, 2014. drawing in black pencil, watercolour and gouache and gold leaf.

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