Australian Art – Home & Away

Home and Away

Thanks to the Friends of the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery and the FRESH Festival, I have been honored to present a series of lectures on aspects of Australian art history.

In Home and Away, the turn of the century sees radical transformations. Artists and designers worked through their strange dreams to bring new voices into Australian art. From Federation to the First World War and beyond, we sent our artists overseas and brought them home again, laden with new ideas as modern Australians.

This public lecture was held on Thursday 18 April 2019, 5.30pm to 6.30pm, in the E3 Artspace of the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, near Wollundry Lagoon and the Civic Theatre.

Australian Art – Great Southern Land

Great Southern Land 4 April 2019 Sam Bowker

Thanks to the Friends of the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery and the FRESH Festival, I have been honored to present a series of lectures on aspects of Australian art history.

In Great Southern Land, our story begins with the first contacts between Indigenous Australians and Europeans. This is a journey through breath-taking artworks that reveal personal narratives, conflict, ancient knowledge and scientific exploration. From these remarkable encounters we strike gold, some blokes go camping, and Australian art changes forever.

This public lecture was held on Thursday 4 April 2019, 5.30pm to 6.30pm, in the E3 Artspace of the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, near Wollundry Lagoon and the Civic Theatre.

Art after Orientalism

This was a public lecture developed for the launch of the exhibition “Elsewhere: Travels through Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iran and Central Asia”, hosted by Charles Sturt University. This illustrated lecture reviewed the curatorial thesis for this touring exhibition, including the reception and critiques of Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), contemporary representations of these regions in visual culture, and how the artists Wendy Sharpe and Bernard Ollis have challenged these perspectives to create empathic narratives through first-person encounters.

Elsewhere: Travels through Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iran and Central Asia

Cairo Cafe - Wendy Sharpe, ELSEWHERE exhibition

Image: Wendy Sharpe, Cairo Cafe (2009) Gouache on paper. Private collection.


Elsewhere is a touring exhibition curated in response to the 40th anniversary of Edward Said’s vastly influential book Orientalism. It surveys the work of acclaimed travelling artists Wendy Sharpe and Bernard Ollis, whose complex works directly engage with the depiction of the realities of daily life and visitor’s experiences across North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Developed over ten years, these artworks present a critical reply to Said’s thesis, establishing how contemporary artists may represent the nuances of present-day traveler’s realities through drawing, artists’ books, and paintings across monumental and intimate scales.

The Elsewhere Exhibition Catalogue is freely available online here: Elsewhere Exhibition Catalogue (Published 2019)

This exhibition has been generously supported by the New South Wales Government through a touring exhibitions grant from CreateNSW, the H.R. Gallop Gallery and Charles Sturt University. It was curated by Dr Sam Bowker and Jessica Green, with contributions to the catalogue from Rachel Walls and Soseh Yekanians. We thank the artists Wendy Sharpe and Bernard Ollis for the loan of their works to this exhibition and interviews.

Elsewhere Exhibition Tour Dates:

  • H.R. Gallop Gallery, Wagga Wagga: 13 August – 7 September 2018
  • Griffith Regional Art Gallery: 29 September – 4 November 2018
  • Port Macquarie Glasshouse: 13 July – 29 September 2019
  • Tamworth Regional Art Gallery: 8 February – 22 March 2020
  • Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo: 27 March – 10 May 2020


Bernard Ollis - Dancing in a Cairo nightclub - 2008

Image: Bernard Ollis, Dancing in a Cairo Nightclub (2008) Oil pastel on paper. Private collection.


Navigating the Infinite Sky: Public Lectures for Sky Trails 2018

Sky Trails 2018

Burrung Murruway | Sky Trails | Masarat Alsama

It was a pleasure to deliver a series of lectures for Southern Tablelands Arts as part of a fascinating panel including the astronomer Kirsten Banks and the artists Khaled Sabsabi and Peter Swain. My illustrated lecture surveyed the extraordinary apparatus and complex visual cultures of astronomy as seen from an art historian’s perspective.

More information here:


Renaissance Art and Song – Lectures in Wagga Wagga

Renaissance Art and Song

In October 2017 I will present a series of four free lectures, accompanied by live choral performances, at the Museum of the Riverina’s Historic Council Chambers site in Wagga Wagga, NSW (Australia). This event has been sponsored by a Wagga Wagga City Council Annual Grant, auspiced by Eastern Riverina Arts.

Each week, selected songs from the Renaissance will intersperse illustrated commentaries on aspects of Renaissance art. These will be performed by the Minor Details choir, coordinated by Marie-Cecile Henderson of the Riverina Conservatorium of Music.

These will be held on Thursdays from 5:30 – 6:30pm from 5 October – 26 October. (That is every Thursday in October)

For seating and catering purposes, please RSVP here. One registration, per person, is sufficient for this series.

For more information:



Have Poets Left a Patch to Sew?

REVISED INVITATION - Riverina Textiles

Inspired by a line from a 7th-century Arabic poem (the Mu’allaqat), Have Poets Left a Patch to Sew? invited artists and writers to respond to significant textiles.

This resulted in a diverse exhibition featuring Wiradjuri, Egyptian, Peranakan, and Riverina representation, including digital animations, soundscapes, video art, graphic design, artists’ books, textile art, a replica drawn from a 1918 Girl Guides’ uniform, and an experimental performance inspired by the 1933 ‘Human Glove’ murder investigation on the Murrumbidgee River near Wagga Wagga.

This exhibition was supported by a Wagga Wagga City Council Community Grant, auspiced and assisted by Eastern Riverina Arts, and displayed in the H.R. Gallop Gallery on the Charles Sturt University campus. Poems and other contributions were written by the Booranga Writer’s Centre. It was curated by Sam Bowker.

The exhibition catalogue can be downloaded here: TEXTILE EXHIBITION CATALOGUE 2017 BOOK

Participating Artists and Writers – Have Poets Left a Patch to Sew?

  • Rachel Wall
  • Damian Candusso
  • Susan Wood
  • Scott Howie
  • Kerri-Anne Chin
  • Barbel Ullrich
  • Bess Cook
  • Dominique Sweeney
  • Robert Lewis
  • Aunty Gail Manderson
  • Melanie Evans
  • Atlanta Hall, Jacquie Tinkler and Andrea Schineau
  • Claire Baker
  • David Gilbey
  • Lachlan Brown
  • Ingrid Bruckner
  • Cassily Charles
  • Stuart Boag
  • Ian Stewart
  • Joan Cahill
  • D.E. South






Echoes & Identity: What is contemporary ‘Islamic’ art?

Curated for Trinity Grammar, Kew (in Melbourne, Australia) with the support of John Waller (Head of Art), this exhibition was designed for Australian secondary school students (Years 7-10) studying art, design, society and religion.

My intention was to challenge their expectations of ‘Islamic’ art by presenting an entirely digital and primarily secular exhibition, featuring screen-based and projected artworks from around the world.

Echoes & Identity included hypothetical architecture, time-based and experimental calligraphy, sound installations, choreographed dance, swimwear design, and interviews with artists. The final artwork was an HSP (Halal Snack Pack), the edible epitome of Australian contemporary ‘Islamic art’.

Echoes and Identity 9-27 March 2017

Exhibition Catalogue: Echoes and Identity Catalogue LOW RES

Harouf 3

Artists Featured in Echoes & Identity

Azza Al Ghardaqa – Haroof (2014) (detail above)

Mohammad Javad Khajavi – The Third Script (2016)

Brooke Silcox, Mat de Koning and Abdul Abdullah – ‘The Bad Guy’ (ABC Interview) (2014)

Cristobal Villa – Isfahan (2009)

We Are Pi – The Power of X (2012)

Edris Alsami – (An Australian) Adhan (2014)

Trinity Grammar School – Halal Snack Pack (2017) (The artwork was a real HSP on a plinth. That  link will take you to an overview of the HSP as a cultural statement by Ed Smith for Overland, September 2016)