September exhibition 2018


Janelle Evans



NAANYILI which means deep looking in the Sydney Dharug language, invites the viewer to find new ways of perceiving Aboriginal women than that projected by the myths and stereotypes formulated during the colonial period.  

The development of photographic practice in Australia in the nineteenth-century began with its adoption by explorers, travellers, colonial officials and scientists as part of a collective scientific endeavour to map and catalogue the country’s geography, flora, fauna and Indigenous inhabitants. The photographic medium was used by the colonisers to measure and classify physical and mental states of the human body particularly in relation to the ‘savage disappearing’ races. Through the ethnographer’s photographic apparatus, Indigenous Australians became the most surveyed and measured people on the planet, with the body forming a site for Victorian theories of racial hierarchy. Late nineteenth-century anthropological photographs of Aboriginal peoples stripped them of any individuality, personality and subjectivity. They sought to recast Aboriginal peoples as stone-age relics of an earlier stage of humanity and denied them the right to modernity. Studio portraits of Aboriginal women during this period, misrepresented them and reinforced nineteenth-century constructions of black female transgressive sexuality. Such images were collected and swapped as fetishised objects, and gave European men the opportunity to gaze imperially, imposing their desire on an imaginary other with the body of the naked, black, compliant female forming a site for erotic pleasure.  

This exhibition NAANYILI is a series of works including etchings, encaustic collage paintings as well as black and white silver gelatin photographs which creatively reinterpret photographic history by inviting the viewer to find new ways of perceiving Aboriginal women than that projected by the myths and stereotypes formulated during the colonial period. It utilises photographic images drawn from the archives and appropriated from the internet in order to delimit the eroticised nature of the images. Several residencies undertaken on the island of Teerk-Roo-Ra in Queensland’s Moreton Bay (a former lazaret where Aboriginal peoples were incarcerated) resulted in performances which sought to disrupt the colonial trajectories of difference and activate Aboriginal agency within temporal space and place.  

Janelle Evans (born Innisfail) is of Dharug descent. She holds a degree in Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art from Griffith University where she was mentored and taught by various members of the ProppaNow Collective. Janelle also holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) and Master of Fine Arts from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney where she is also a current candidate for a PhD and teaches painting. Her multi-disciplinary art practice includes print media, painting and film. She exhibits regularly in Australia, France and Japan and her work is held in private collections.    


Janelle Evans Naanyili AIRspace Projects Inc September 2018.