Tommy May Ngarralja - 'Wurna Juwal' 2016 - 60 x 60 cm - Scratched enamel paint on metal - Courtesy Mangkaja Arts

Tommy May Ngarralja – ‘Wurna Juwal’ 2016 – 60 x 60 cm – Scratched enamel paint on metal – Courtesy Mangkaja Arts

Both a literal interpretation and a metaphor, Scratching the surface is an exhibition of works by Indigenous Australian artists who work with and about the surface. Exploring traditional and innovative mark making techniques, the use of effects of surface, the surface as a subject as well as a conceptual tool, it aims at challenging preconceptions, while rediscovering ancient practices and celebrating contemporary approaches making their mark.

The first curated Indigenous Australian art exhibition taking place at the Alliance Française de Sydney, it brings together an impressive selection of works of art coming from across Australia, notably including:
scratched enamel paint on metal by Ngarralja Tommy May (Fitzroy Crossing, WA),
marked possum and kangaroo skin works by Lee Darroch (Gippsland Lakes, VIC),
tree-marking diamond designs etched by Reko Rennie (Melbourne, VIC),
Aunty May Hinch (Boggabilla, NSW) etching the surface of her country,
incised bark paintings by Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra Yukuwa (Yirrkala, East Arnhem Land, NT),
shell and glitter work Aunty Esme Timbery and Marilyn Russel (La Perouse, NSW),
Western desert painters Jakayu Biljabu and Ngamaru Bidu (Pilbara, WA) experimenting with shimmering paints,
and Vernon Ah Kee (Brisbane, QLD) and Raymond Zada (Adelaide, SA) etching unsettling truths about Aboriginal art.

The exhibition is curated by Solenne Ducos-Lamotte, Director of IDAIA, with the assistance of curatorial advisor Tess Allas, Director of Indigenous Programs, UNSW Art & Design, and results from the collaboration between the Alliance Française of Sydney, IDAIA, Cicada Press – UNSW, the artists and the artist cooperatives notably Buku-Larrnggay Mulka (Arnhem Land), Mangkaja Arts (Kimberley) and Boomalli Artists (NSW).

Dates: 19 September – 3 November 2016

Venue: Alliance Française de Sydney
257 Clarence Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Opening hours:

  • Basement level & Media Centre level:
    Monday – Thursday : 9am to 6.30pm
    Friday: 9am to 4.30pm
    Saturday: 8.30am-2.00pm
  • 13th floor space:
    Monday – Thursday : 10am to 5pm
    Friday: 10am to 4.30pm
    And by appointment
    The 13th floor space may be closed for private events (*).

(*) The 13th floor space is closed on 25-26-27 Oct. for private events.


Admission: Free

Opening ceremony: Wednesday 21 September 2016 at 6pm

Related publication: exhibition catalogue

Public and educational events: click here

Contact: For any question or to receive the media package: