The Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship Exhibition

Image: Roberta Joy Rich, digital still from M/other Land 2018. Multi-channel video. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Abyss.

UNSW Galleries is pleased to present The Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship for Emerging Artists from 9 August to 7 September 2019, featuring works by leading Australian emerging artists Tiyan Baker, Kieran Bryant, Callum McGrath, Spence Messih, Sara Retallick, Roberta Joy Rich, Alexandra Spence, and Laetitia Olivier-Gargano.

The Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship for Emerging Artists celebrates the work of early career Australian artists. Each year, Scholarships are awarded to assist with the cost of overseas travel to conduct research and study.

The exhibition showcases eight emerging Australian artists who are the 2017 and 2019 recipients of the Scholarship and features new works by Spence Messih, Sara Retallick, Roberta Joy Rich, and Alexandra Spence alongside new iterations of works by Tiyan Baker, Kieran Bryant, Callum McGrath, and Laetitia Olivier-Gargano. Guest curator of the exhibition is the Freedman Foundation Curatorial Scholar Isabella Cornell, who is completing her Honours in Art Theory at UNSW Art & Design.

Cornell said, “The Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship exhibition offers a snapshot into the unique practices of eight Australian emerging artists. The artists are brought together by their award of The Freedman Foundation Scholarship, which offers an opportunity for global mobility significant for younger artists to kickstart their career.”

Callum McGrath, 1897-1991 2018. Acrylic, mirror, aluminium, vinyl, and MDF.

Callum McGrath, 1897-1991 2018. Acrylic, mirror, aluminium, vinyl, and MDF. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Callum McGrath.

Through a range of media including sound, sculpture, video and photography, the artists’ works explore an array of themes often reflecting on their personal relationship to sites and cities visited as part of their Scholarship program.

From discomfort and the uncanny, transgender, queer and gender variant histories, slavery and race relations, to how death and intimate acts are mediated in the internet age, the works demonstrate a deep consideration of the global landscape and our place within it.

As Cornell states, “In response to a tumultuous social and political present, this exhibition is testament to the inventive and poetic ways these artists are able to embrace complex and pressing issues while demonstrating a mastery over their chosen materials such as stained glass, silicone and submerged sound recordings, to illuminate points of connection and divergence.”

Laetitia Olivier-Gargano, It's been an uncomfortable year… 2017–18. Mixed-media.

Laetitia Olivier-Gargano, It's been an uncomfortable year… 2017–18Mixed-media. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Amalia Lindo.

Exhibition details

Artists: Tiyan Baker, Kieran Bryant, Callum McGrath, Spence Messih, Sara Retallick, Roberta Joy Rich, Alexandra Spence, and Laetitia Olivier-Gargano

Curator: Isabella Cornell

Where: UNSW Galleries, Courtyard Gallery

Address: Cnr. Oxford Street and Greens Road, Paddington NSW 2021

When: 9 August – 7 September 2019

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm (closed public holidays)

Opening Event: 3–5pm Saturday 10 August 2019 

Curatorial Tour: 4–4:30pm Saturday 10 August 2019 join Curator Isabella Cornell for a curatorial walkthrough of the exhibition.

About the artists


Spence Messih (NSW) uses sculpture, installation, photography, and text to explore the potential of forms and materials to communicate trans(gender) experiences. With The Freedman Foundation Scholarship, Spence undertook a mentorship with New York-based artist Gordon Hall, followed by self-directed research trips to The Chinati Foundation and various LGBTQIA+ archives throughout North America and Canada.

Sara Retallick (Vic) is an artist, musician and producer whose practice explores expanded listening and the human perceptions of sound and time. Sara travelled to Limpopo, South Africa with her Scholarship, to take part in ‘Sonic Mmabolela’, a two-week residency with sound artist Fransisco Lopez developing site responsive creative works using recordings gathered from the landscape.

Roberta Joy Rich (Vic) works across video, performance, installation and multi-disciplinary projects to respond to constructions of 'race' and gender identity, often referencing her own (diasporic) African identity and experiences. Roberta undertook a self-directed research project, exploring the history of the South African Race Relations Institute, and tracing slave African ancestry in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Alexandra Spence (NSW) is a sound-artist and musician working across installation, composition and performance to explore the idea of listening as active practice. Alexandra undertook a mentorship with seminal sound-artist David Toop and a workshop with sound-recordist Chris Watson, exploring how notions of place and identity are shaped and mediated through everyday sounds.


Tiyan Baker (NSW) is a video, sound and installation artist whose work draws on field research and documentary techniques to explore the emotional experience of the self as embedded in greater socio-political contexts. Tiyan will undertake a self-directed research trip to her mother's birthplace in Sarawak, Borneo where she will explore the unique role of Indigenous Bidayuh women, and reflect on her own responsibilities as an Australian-Bidayuh woman and artist.

Kieran Bryant (NSW) is a performance, video and installation artist interested in exploring alternative viewpoints concerning queer fluidity, visibility and the body in contemporary arts and culture. Kieran will travel to England and Wales on a research-led project examining water as a queer embodied resistive force within the UK canal network. He will undertake a mentorship with dance artist Leah Marojević and work with gallery Auto Italia, as well as visit a canal restoration camp and a range of British queer archives.

Callum McGrath (Qld) is a video and installation artist whose research-based practice examines the historical, personal, and political resonance of inherited queer trauma. Callum will travel to Germany on a self-directed research trip to visit the archives of Magnus Hirschfeld and other historical sites and memorials significant to the persecution of LGBTQIA+ people in World War II.

Laetitia Olivier-Gargano (Vic) works with small-scale sculpture, stop-motion animation, and paper to explore the aesthetics of the human body and responses to the uncanny. Laetitia will undertake a self-directed research trip to Japan to work with the artisans behind iconic ‘fake-food’ displays, and develop her research in ‘show-era’ food and culture throughout Japan.

About the scholarship

The Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship is administered by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) on behalf of The Freedman Foundation. Since its inception in 2000, the scholarship has enabled 90 emerging artists to expand and enrich their studio practice abroad. The Freedman Travelling Scholarship supports emerging artists to undertake international projects and travel to establish networks, conduct residencies, mentorships or self-directed research. The Curatorial Scholarship is supported by The Freedman Foundation through NAVA and UNSW Art & Design. UNSW Galleries has supported The Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship since 2014 as presenting partner.

NAVA acknowledges the traditional owners and custodians of the land where this exhibition is taking place, the Gadigal and Bidjigal peoples of the Eora Nation and others who traded on, travelled through and connected with this land, and continue to do so. We recognise all Custodians of Country throughout all lands, waters and territories. We pay our respects to the Elders past, present and emerging. Sovereignty was never ceded.

The Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship Exhibition