Michael Riley - Cloud & Sacrifice

Exhibition: 2 May to 3 June, 2005

Michael Riley

In 2004, the indigenous Australian photographer and filmmaker Michael Riley was awarded one of three Grand Prizes at the 11th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh for his cloud series. This represented a significant achievement for an Australian artist whose work was selected from more than 300 artists from 44 countries.

Over his career this Wiradjuri/Gamilaroi artist created an impressive body of work. His practice ranged from early black&white portraiture to film, video and large-scale digital works. Throughout, his concern was to celebrate the spirit of his people while also bearing witness to their struggles. He had a deep commitment to the process of reconciliation. In 1987 he was one of the founding members of Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, set up to promote the work of urban Aboriginal artists.

Stills Gallery is delighted to be able to present two of Riley's significant bodies of photographic work, Cloud and Sacrifice plus his most celebrated cinematic work Empire (1997). Sacrifice (1992), a series of 15 beautiful and enigmatic images, symbolically reflects upon the relationship between indigenous people and Christianity. Riley comments upon the conflicting role of the church as both protector of indigenous people and destroyer of traditional culture.

Riley's last and most significant series Cloud (2000) continued his investigation of Indigenous spirituality and attachment to country. The 10 large-scale colour photographs depict objects such as a feather, a cow and a boomerang suspended against brilliant blue skies. A sense of loss pervades this work.

Riley had an impressive career as an artist, exhibiting extensively both in Australia and overseas. His work is held in many private and public collections. In 2002 his film Empire and Cloud travelled to ARCO in Spain as part of Photographica Australis.

In 2003 Cloud and Sacrifice featured in the Asia Pacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery. In 2006 there will be a major retrospective exhibition of Riley's work at the National Gallery of Australia, together with a major publication. This show will tour nationally.