Kathy Keele speaks at the opening of Ricky Maynard’s Portrait of a Distant Land exhibition as part of Photoquai at the Australian Embassy in Paris.
Thank you for that very kind introduction, Ambassador Wensley, and a very special thank you for hosting this wonderful event here tonight at the embassy.
Ladies and gentlemen. It’s a great honour for me to be invited to the opening of this wonderful exhibition by the brilliant Australian artist, Ricky Maynard.
I’d like to say a few words about Ricky and about the shared vision of the Musee du quai Branly and Australian Embassy in bringing his works to Paris, one of the world’s great arts and cultural centres.
Ricky Maynard is very much an artist of his people and his place.
His people are the communities of Big River and Ben Lomond in the north of our island state, Tasmania.
His place is the rugged landscapes of the northern part of the island and the shores of Bass Strait.
Ricky’s ability to engage his people in the process of recording and documenting themselves – to go beyond the act of simply ‘taking the shot’ – has taken him on a fascinating personal and creative journey.
Ricky made his mark, more than 20 years ago, documenting the lives of his people during the annual mutton-bird season.
Ever since, his arresting photography has won countless awards and accolades around Australia and around the globe.
His major exhibition – Portrait of a Distant Land – follows the trails and song lines of his people across their places.
Like its artist, Portrait of a Distant Land is an exhibition that has made several major journeys of its own.
Portrait of a Distant Land first opened to much acclaim in 2005 at the landmark Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, which commissioned the works with Australia Council support through our New Australian Stories initiative.
A year later in 2006, it journeyed to Korea with a series of billboards on show at the Busan Biennale.
In March this year, it was a centrepiece of the Ten Days of the Island Festival in Ricky’s home state of Tasmania.
And this evening the journey stops over as part of Photoquai.
As we look around this exhibition, the evocative power of Ricky’s photography takes us all on a journey.
It transports us to a distant land almost 17,000 kilometres away, and into the lives of its people.
It’s this vision – of photography that takes the viewer on a journey into the lives of people from around the world – that is the essence of the Photoquai biennale.
In many ways, it’s this very same journey that lies at the heart of the Musee du quai Branly project, which launched so successfully here in Paris some 16 months ago.
The myriad photographs and video works on show in Photoquai document the lives of people around the globe – under the banner of “the world watching the world”.
And here in Paris, there are so many worlds just waiting to be watched.
For the next month, a walk down the banks of the River Seine or over to the Musee du quai Branly is itself a journey into the lives of people from cultures as remote, and as diverse as Cambodia, Canada, China, the Congo, and the Caribbean.
Tonight and for the duration, Australia is very proudly represented by these incredible works around us.
On behalf of the Australia Council for the Arts, I would like to thank and congratulate everyone who has made this exhibition possible.
From the Musee du quai Branly, to the staff here at the Australian Embassy, to representatives from Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
And most of all to Ricky, whose stunning photography captivates us and invites us all into his world.
Thank you everyone for making this journey possible. It is one that we are all so thrilled to share.
“For the next month, a walk down the banks of the River Seine or over to the Musee du quai Branly is itself a journey into the lives of people from cultures as remote, and as diverse as Cambodia, Canada, China, the Congo, and the Caribbean.”