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Monday 15 July 2024

Creative Research Residency Projects

Sir Russell Drysdale (donor), Sir Russell Drysdale's Gift of Rare books, Printed Australiana: 56 Volumes, 36 publications - the majority having been published during the 18th and 19th Centuries (a selection depicted), JCU Library Rare Book Collection, Ⓒ James Cook University. Photography by Michael Marzik.

Umbrella and James Cook University (JCU) have launched an exciting residency focused on JCU Library's Special Collections at the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library and at The Studio, on Bindal and Wulgurukaba Country in Townsville.

The collections include rare books, books with hand-coloured prints and bookplates, newspapers, photographs, and art objects. While the collections have a focus on North Queensland and the tropics, it ultimately tells stories about Australia and its connection to places and people elsewhere.

Research themes for the residency could include place, migration, colonies, missions, labour, the reef/ocean, water, pearling and sugar cane production. Further information about the Special Collections can be found here

The residency supports contemporary Australian visual artists with accommodation, an artist fee and a travel fee for a one-month program, divided into one week at the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library and three weeks at The Studio at Umbrella.

For 2023, we have selected two successful artists to research JCU Library’s Special Collections and create new bodies of work in August and November, respectively: Fijian-Australian artist and curator Shivanjani Lal will critically engage with archival documents and images related to the indentured labour industry, and Gurambilbarra-based artist Alison McDonald will continue her research focused on marine algae.

Shivanjani Lal is a Fijian-Australian artist and curator, whose work has been exhibited across Australia, and internationally in New Zealand, India, Barbados, France, Indonesia, the United Kingdom and Italy. The artist often uses personal grief to account for ancestral loss, and recent works have used story-telling, objects and video to account for lost histories and explore narratives of indenture and migratory histories from the Indian and Pacific oceans. During her Creative Research Residency, Lal intends to develop three new bodies of work: a series of photo films, photo collages, and textile works using sugar sacks and saris. Employing Kal – which means both yesterday and tomorrow in Fijian Hindi – as a framing tool, she will explore the indentured labour industries in both Fiji and Queensland through archival images and documents from JCU Library’s Special Collections as well as her personal archive of her maternal grandmother’s photographs. Lal was the recipient of the Create New South Wales Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship in 2019, and she was the 2020 Georges Mora Fellow and a Studio artist at Parramatta Artists' Studios. In 2021, Lal graduated with distinction from Goldsmiths, University of London, with a Masters in Artists Film and Moving Image. In 2022, she received a Create NSW Visual Arts Commissioning grant to develop new work for The National 4: Australian Art Now to be shown at Campbelltown Arts Centre, in 2023. Recently, Lal was awarded the QAGOMA Vida Lahey Memorial Travelling Scholarship.

Shivanjani Lal. Photograph: Jacquie Manning.

Alison McDonald. Photograph: Trevor Lee. 

Alison McDonald’s 20-year practice sits at the junction of sculpture, consumer culture and environmental concern and ranges in size from microscopic jewellery to epic sculpture. Her work has been shown at Sculpture by the Sea, Strand Ephemera (winner in 2015), Royal Melbourne Zoo and is in collections of Royal North Shore Hospital, CQ University, Energy Super, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Perc Tucker Gallery, Stadiums Queensland, and Townsville University Hospital.McDonald holds a BVA (Hons) from JCU and a Master of Art in Public Space from RMIT, Melbourne. She has taught sculpture at JCU and TAFE and has participated in numerous jewellery courses at USQ McGregor Schools. She has also been artist in residence in Aberystwyth, Wales, and twice at RedGate, Beijing, and at home for Umbrella’s AHAIR during the COVID-19 lockdown. She recently had a national solo travelling exhibition Wanton, Wild & Unimagined around Australia to 13 galleries.For her Creative Research Residency project, McDonald will focus on the seaweed from the Sir Charles Maurice Yonge Collection at JCU Library’s Special Collections and, in particular, the Flowers of the Sea British Marine Algae collected by Annie Slade in 1884. Utilising her skills and knowledge about metalsmithing, she plans to create sculptures, small objects and jewellery based on her research and engagement with the collection, while raising awareness of environmental issues and the importance of marine algae to our planet.

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(07) 4772 7109

408 Flinders Street,
Gurambilbarra (Townsville),
Qld, 4810 Australia

PO Box 2394,
Gurambilbarra (Townsville),
Qld, 4810 Australia

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Acknowledgement of Country

Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts respectfully acknowledges the Wulgurukaba of Gurambilbarra and Yunbenun and the surrounding groups of our region - Bindal, Gugu Badhan, Nywaigi, Warrgamay, Bandjin and Gudjal - as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we gather, share and celebrate local creative practice. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first people of Australia. They have never ceded sovereignty and remain strong in their enduring connection to land and Culture.

Umbrella is a Dealer Member of the Indigenous Art Code. This means we are committed to fair and ethical trade with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, and transparency in the promotion and sale of artwork. As a Dealer Member and signatory to the Code we must act fairly, honestly, professionally and in good conscience in all direct or indirect dealings with artists.


Umbrella is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, part of the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy, and by the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, state and territory governments. | Umbrella is supported by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation and receives funding from Creative Australia through the Australian Cultural Fund. | Townsville City Council is a funding partner of Umbrella's program.