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'OUR TOTEM' by Otis Hope Carey Opens in Sydney

'OUR TOTEM' by Otis Hope Carey Opens in Sydney

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'OUR TOTEM' by Otis Hope Carey Opens in Sydney

Otis Hope Carey 'Our Totem - M1’. Original painting, 2022

OUR TOTEM is Otis Hope Carey’s fifth solo exhibition with China Heights and is a continuation of the artist’s commitment to interpreting and communicating the relationship he has with his Gumbaynggirr clan totem, Gaagal (the ocean). OUR TOTEM has allowed Carey to delve further into his practice, experiment with new materials and ultimately share experience, culture and memory. Poignantly, OUR TOTEM is the first time that Carey will be exhibiting a new works made on bark that he has sourced and treated himself on Gumbaynggirr Country. 

Often when sitting in the surf and looking back toward shore, Carey takes in vast expanses of stringybark forests that cover the mountainous Coffs Harbour coastline. It is this perspective that has inspired OUR TOTEM and the bringing together of the bush and the ocean; two elements that Carey is intrinsically linked to through culture, identity and spirituality and has experienced firsthand growing up on Bundjalung and Gumbaynggirr Country. 

Otis Hope Carey 'Our Totem - B2’. Original painting, 2022

Otis Hope Carey 'Our Totem - S12'. Original painting, 2022

Carey’s distinctive depiction of Gaagal essentially combines two layers of linework. The first layer uses traditional symbols, concentric circles, that are exaggerated and expanded out to represent water and the way it may move in ripples when struck by rain, wind, or if a rock were to hit it’s surface. The top layer again references Gaagal through the representation of tidal charts, wave currents and flowing tides. Carey describes a different energy that his artworks have when painted on bark, where the grooves, divots and natural undulations of the timber surface give a lively quality and, in a way, animate the artworks, emulating the non-stop movement of the ocean.

Though each artwork has its own identity and story to tell, the works in OUR TOTEM are linked through the use of colour, both a material and conceptual choice. Carey’s colour palette is reflective of moments, memories and experiences of natural environments that he feels compelled to share. There are soft greens that link to the artist’s memory of a plush grass that covers the headland of a favourite beach and a pastel pink that references a sunset shared with his eldest son. These and other colours are used and co-mingled between both the canvas and bark works in the exhibition, again suggesting an interconnectedness between material, memory and lived experience.

Carey’s number one pursuit in exhibiting any of his artworks is the sharing of culture in order to promote healthy conversations and education through the arts. OUR TOTEM links directly to Carey’s spiritual connection with his totem, Gaagal, and in turn acts as a reference point for the human experiences we all may share with the ocean.

“The ocean has so many powerful healing elements to it and to be honest, I wouldn’t be here right now if I didn’t have the ocean. I want to share these connections and what the ocean has given me.” — Otis Hope Carey

Otis Hope Carey 'Our Totem - XXL1’. Original painting, 2022

In 2020, Carey was a finalist in The Wynne Prize and presented his solo exhibition Ngalunggirr Miingi with China Heights, in which he showed his first explorations into working with timber in the form of sculptural log works. In 2021, Carey featured in The Ripple Effect, Peter Dickson’s documentary centred on the ongoing effects of racism and discrimination on mental health. This year, Carey notably worked with director Taika Waititi to create the cloak worn by Chris Hemsworth in the opening scenes of Waititi’s newest film, Thor: Love and Thunder. In August, Otis Hope Carey will show works with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, as part of their group exhibition NO FALSE IDOLS, and will present his fifth solo exhibition with China Heights titled OUR TOTEM.

Otis Hope Carey 'Our Totem - L1’. Original painting, 2022

Otis Hope Carey 'Our Totem - XL2’. Original painting, 2022

Otis Hope Carey 'Our Totem - M2’. Original painting, 2022


'OUR TOTEM' by Otis Hope Carey
Opens 6pm - 8pm Friday 12.08.22 
Continues 12pm - 5pm until 04.09.22

China Heights Gallery & Studios
Level 3, 16-28 Foster St, Surry Hills 2010, AU 

To view the full catagloue of available works, click here.
All images courtesy of the artist and China Heights.


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.


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