Time and Tides
Art in the Torres Strait Islands, Queensland

2 Sep 2017 – 5 Aug 2018
GOMA | Gallery 3.5 | Free

The Torres Strait is a beguiling region of volcanic islands, coral cays and richly coloured submerged reefs, fringed by turquoise water, under pale blue skies. In ‘Time and Tides’, Torres Strait Islander artists, including those living on mainland Australia, embrace the beauty of the environment and reflect the diversity and depth of the culture, particularly its history of making powerful ceremonial and decorative objects.

Following a long local tradition of skilful wood-carving, in the 1990s, a group of young men perfected their lino- and wood-block carving techniques to create intricate prints, bringing a new form of Torres Strait Island art into prominence. Leading printmakers Alick Tipoti, Billy Missi and Brian Robinson are included here, as well as textile artist Rosie Ware, who records landmark island events and histories in wood- and lino-block printed fabrics.

Zamiyakal (‘dance machines’) are elaborate, articulated dance objects, worn to add visual excitement to narrative performances. Ken Thaiday Sr is an early exponent and ongoing maker of some of the finest examples of these, particularly his menacing Beizam (hammerhead shark) headdresses, which are worn and animated by performers.

Senior artist Segar Passi’s 50-year career is celebrated in ‘Time and Tides’. Selected watercolours of fish appear alongside works on paper that capture vital Torres Strait weather patterns, as well as the major two-part work on canvas of the islands where Passi grew up – Waier; Dauar 2014; 2014–15.

The stories that emerge from this Collection-based exhibition convey the vitality of contemporary Torres Strait Islander culture and point to the knowledge and skills that sustain life in what is a complex maritime environment.


Ken Thaiday Sr, Australia b.1950 / Symbol of the Torres Strait 2003 / Plywood, synthetic polymer paint, feathers, black bamboo, plastic tubing, fishing line / Purchased 2004 with funds from Corrs Chambers Westgarth through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist.

Joey Laifoo, Australia b.1978 / Pearling days 2002 / Colour linocut on paper / Purchased 2004. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist.