If you’re looking for a unique and culturally enriching experience in Brisbane, consider taking a stroll along the Outdoor Gallery to reflect on the striking works of First Nations artists. Not only will you get to appreciate their incredible talent, but you’ll also get a glimpse into a rich cultural heritage. It’s a great way to spend your morning, and you will come away feeling inspired and enlightened.

Reflections – A Reflection of Brisbane’s Waterways showcases new artworks as part of the Outdoor Gallery’s Indigenous Art Program and celebrates eleven Brisbane-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. 


It was a privilege to join curator and artist from Creative Nation’s, Dean Tyson, with artists Ben Barker and Nicole Williams, for a guided walking tour of this year’s exhibition in the Council’s Outdoor Gallery. There were just five of us on the walk, including the three artists, who generously gave us a deeper understanding of the histories and experiences that have informed their art.


Dean Tyson, Curator and Artist
Dean Tyson, Curator and Artist

Dean Tyson said that art is about conversation.


“This is a collection of many artworks, but all have that same theme, or motif, of reflection,” Dean said.


We started our walk in Hutton Lane with Paula Dewis’ artwork “Many Lands”, which she says acknowledges the connection Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities continue to have to the land, waters, seas, and environment.


“Many Lands” by Paula Dewis

Across the road and down Griffin Lane, we found Brett Leavy’s massive work, “Greater Brisbane 1798″. This interactive map uses Aboriginal iconography “to represent the known places of continued connection to Country, including sacred sites and ceremonial grounds.”


Brett Leavy says the map acknowledges the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander culture and knowledge in the preservation of cultural heritage.


We stood looking at the map for some time, reflecting on the little-understood history of places otherwise familiar to us.


Brett Leavy, "Greater Brisbane 1
Brett Leavy, “Greater Brisbane 1798″

Ben Barker, whose work in the exhibition is River Dreaming in Eagle Lane, said Brisbane City Council’s celebration of Aboriginal art is “beyond important because the dreaming that it stimulates in young people, and that I’ve experienced from sharing this achievement, is amazing. It’s something for the next generation to look up to.”


Ben describes his artwork as contemporary dreaming art, and he invites viewers to experience their own dreaming and evoke natural awakening.


Dean Tyson said his piece “Which way the old ways” in Edison Lane, “honours the tribal lands and waters of Brisbane and gives cultural respect for the contemporary city and surrounding suburbia”. 


He said the footprints in his work “represent the old people, the Traditional Owners of Brisbane and visiting tribes that travel between important places and sites.” His work features silhouettes of artefacts, mangroves, and animals, “as shimmering apparitions applied in a silhouette style, representative of the of the old ways.”


      Walking Group with Ben Barker’s work, “River Dreaming”
Dean Tyson, “Which way the old ways”

Two linked works by Nicole Williams feature in the glass cases at the corners of Edward Street and Elizabeth Street, and Queen Street Mail. She said her work is about the importance of waterways for all people. 


“We have to respect the waterways and nurture the waterways, and what they bring to us in terms of water, a food source, and recreation. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.


Reflections, she said, “is a representation of time and space, using circles as a metaphor for the cycles of life on the meandering river. It is a story about connection and reconnection with our waterways, as the vehicle for that journey.”


“The fact that Brisbane City Council has reached a point where they want to showcase our artworks is huge… So, I’m very hopeful that from this, much more will come,” Nicole said.


Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said the Outdoor Gallery is a way to celebrate and acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s depths and strength of culture and understanding of the land.


“These events give audiences an opportunity to explore and engage with the artists and their stories.”


Nicole Williams


The exhibition showcases artworks from eleven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Other artists featured are Tai Bobongie, Taliah Saylor, Lewis James Bin Doraho, Luke Mallie, Kylie Hill, Brett Leavy and Paula Dewis.

Reflections runs from 19 June – 2 October in Brisbane’s CBD, at Howard Smith Wards and Fish Lane in South Brisbane.

You can take a self-guided walk, but walking with the artists will give you a much richer and more rewarding experience. Find out how at the link below.

Search the ‘Indigenous Art Program’ for more information and plan your visit. 

Cover image, Reflections by Aunty Nicole Williams