On fire
  • Judy Watson, 'spot fires, our country is burning now' (detail), 2020, acrylic, pastel, graphite on canvas, 194 x 181 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

  • Jemima Wyman, 'Plume...', hand-cut digital photographs, 106.5 x 66cm (unframed). Courtesy the artist, Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney, and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.


On fire



On fire examines the strong sense of climate precarity many feel presently in Australia. Looking specifically at Queensland-based artists and their responses to this threat, this exhibition profiles the role of art in times of ecological crisis and in the context of Queensland’s status as the country’s most natural disaster-prone state. Presented in the year 2020—a year when bureaucratic ‘strategic visions’ from the past have typically culminated—On fire compares these previous, hopeful dreams for the future with the insistent realities of the present. With the state’s once ‘safe’ rainforests in the Lamington and Japoon National Parks recently catching alight, and the continent slowly recovering from (and anticipating the next) record-breaking fire season, our claim to a liveable, sustainable, and creative local environment today appears increasingly at risk. Now beyond the point of simply sweating in our humid environs, our state, and our neighbours especially, are ablaze.

On fire reflects on art’s relevance in the face of dramatic global warming and considers its capacity to engage and challenge, in keeping with what American academic Elaine Scarry describes as each artwork’s potential as “a fragment of world alteration”. Featuring newly commissioned and recent work from Queensland artists, this project also acknowledges the IMA’s 45th year in 2020 as a vital incubator and advocate of the state’s nationally and internationally-recognised art scene. Through a group exhibition, series of ambitious public programs, and an accompanying publication, On fire aims to assess and identify a particular, incendiary quality unique to the art of Queensland.

Curated By
  • Tim Riley Walsh
Curator Bio

Tim Riley Walsh is an independent curator, writer, and the Brisbane Desk Editor for ArtAsiaPacific, Hong Kong. He is currently a Post-Thesis Fellow within the School of Communication and Arts, University of Queensland, where he recently completed his MPhil on the archive of the late artist Gordon Bennett. Tim has written widely for publications including ArtAsiaPacific, Frieze, Art Monthly Australasia, Art + Australia Online, Eyeline, Apollo, Runway, and Artlink. He has previously worked in gallery management, communications, and programming roles at Milani Gallery, Brisbane; Camden Arts Centre, London; and the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. In 2018, Tim curated the group exhibition Future Proof at Boxcopy, Brisbane.

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands where the IMA now stands. We pay our respect to Elders past, present, and emerging.