Rockhampton Art Gallery receives grant to publish exhibition catalogue

Published on 22 January 2021


Rockhampton Art Gallery has received a grant of more than $14,000 from the Gordon Darling Foundation to produce a catalogue to accompany the major exhibition Luke Roberts: (to be titled), to open at Rockhampton Museum of Art in 2022.

Luke Roberts was born and grew up in the Central Queensland town of Alpha, his early experiences contributing significantly to his artistic practice.

One of the region's most acclaimed artists, Roberts’s work explores spiritualities, mythologies, ancient and hidden histories.

Through photography, painting, cabinets of curiosities (Wunderkammern), and appearances by his performance persona Her Divine Holiness Pope Alice, Roberts deconstructs our views of the outback, Catholicism, history, gender and extraterrestrials.

In the exhibition, histories will coalesce, reaching out to the artist’s childhood and those previously associated with Alpha, such as nineteenth-century watercolourist Harriet Jane Neville-Rolfe and Saint Mary MacKillop’s Josephite sisters. 

“Due to the location of my birthplace and childhood experiences, the constraints and yearning that come from living in an isolated and regional location, and a sense of being marginalised, helped create a rich inner life, which later highlighted the considerable tension between the pressure to conform and a deep desire for liberation and freedom of thought,” Mr Roberts said.

“I see myself as a trailblazer, a pioneer, like my ancestors. HDH (Her Divine Holiness) Pope Alice assures me, ‘Planet Earth is the cosmological equivalent of a provincial town.’”

The Gordon Darling Foundation is a philanthropic organisation that promotes, through grants to public institutions Australia-wide, access to and enjoyment of all areas of the visual arts, for the broadest possible audience. It also helps to promote Australian arts in the international arena.

The Luke Roberts exhibition publication will be extensively illustrated and will include contributions by Rockhampton Museum of Art Director Bianca Acimovic and Curator Tess Maunder, exhibition curator Michele Helmrich, and independent writer, curator and broadcaster Julie Ewington. An interview with the artist will also be included.

Rockhampton Regional Council Community Services portfolio spokesperson Cr Drew Wickerson said that Council is very grateful to the Gordon Darling Foundation for the grant.

“In a career spanning some five decades, Luke Roberts’s work is significant both within contemporary Australian art, and for the region of Central Queensland,” Cr Wickerson said.

“This exhibition’s publication, made possible through the generous support of the Gordon Darling Foundation, will document and offer a critical assessment of the practice and recent works of Luke Roberts.”

The exhibition is being curated by Michele Helmrich, a Brisbane-based independent writer and curator. She was formerly Associate Director (Curatorial) at The University of Queensland Art Museum and has curated numerous large-scale exhibitions. She has written several essays on the work of Luke Roberts.

“The exhibition will not only bring a special focus to how this region has informed Luke’s practice, but also to how he has understood and reflected on his place within it,” Ms Helmrich said.

“We will journey with Luke to a life fantastical, across time, place and imagination, intertwined with wit, wonder and belief suspended.

“The catalogue, such a significant component in an exhibition’s development, will offer audiences fresh research and insights into the artist’s work and its context, and will provide a valuable document that will last long after the exhibition,” Ms Helmrich said.

This exhibition is supported with funding of $49,800 through the Queensland Government’s Queensland Arts Showcase Program.

Rockhampton Museum of Art is funded by the Australian Government through the Building Better Regions Fund; the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and through the Building Our Regions program; and Rockhampton Regional Council.



Pope Alice (Umbrella), 2015 

photographic performance from the series 'The Island'

performer: Pope Alice

camera: Alec Schultz