Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility


Amanda Bell, Ron Bradfield Jnr, Sam Bloor, Sonja & Elisa Jane Carmichael, Garry Sibosado, Soul Alphabet and Anglea Tiatia

  • Australia

Presented in association with Fremantle Arts Centre

'A wave crashes upon the shore, the forces of deep oceans far and wide propelling it towards the coastline. Each and every wave writes a story, a history, as it crashes upon sandy or rocky shores. The undertow pulls backwards, out to sea, in a counter current full of tension and unease as the next wave gathers power and tumbles forward, ready to write another story. Undertow is about what sits below, what can’t always be seen, but is always felt. It is about going against the current, about deep reflection upon our worlds and lives and more than anything, it is about not resting comfortably in any truth which is not our own.'
Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, Curator

Flanked by deep waters, our state and nation’s connection with the coast is complex and multi-layered. From narratives of the beginning of time, of creation, to our collective imaginings of the future, the waters that surround our island continent and the oceans and seas of our global community are sites of tradition, transience, terror and turmoil. 

In the context of Australia, these expansive waters take up appropriate space in the anthologies of our continent, they are economic highways, pathways to freedom, colonial carriageways, vessels of knowledge – they are entities of promise, but also of betrayal.  Undertow explores the relationships we have with the oceans and seas, ever-changing bodies of water in constant flux, as places of arrival and departure, places of transformation and as places of deep ancestral connection.

Undertow brings together artists working in a range of modes and materials, from large format cyanotype, to glass neon, site-specific intervention, photography, sculpture, installation and film to celebrate the many ways artists explore and document our worlds, creating new ways of reflecting upon history and reality and in doing so offering us new ways to consider and connect narratives and experiences.

Extending upon her recent creative exploration, Badimia and Yued artist Amanda Bell presents a new installation that employs sound, glass neon and sculptural form to express the deep and lasting impact of colonialism in the here and now.

Artist and storyteller Ron Bradfield Jnr explores the confluence of two seemingly opposing salt-water experiences – the first of being a Bardi man from the Kimberley and the second as a member of the Australian Navy. This significant body of work documents the interplay of these worlds and Ron’s deep affinity with saltwater Country.

Interdisciplinary artist Sam Bloor will produce new works both on-site and beyond the walls of Fremantle Arts Centre that explore our coastline and the oceans beyond as a site of asylum and safe passage, interrogating Australian nationalism and border politics. These works challenge audiences to consider the necessity for generosity and compassion at a moment in time when our borders have never been so ferociously defended.

Quandamooka mother and daughter team Sonja and Elisa-Jane Carmichael (QLD) present newly commissioned works that speak to saltwater life, inherited custom and the making traditions of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island, Queensland). These quietly poetic yet deeply resonant works offer moments of reflection, while reaffirming the significance of matriarchy and collective practice in the maintenance and transference of cultural knowledge and making practices.

Soul Alphabet will work with Boorloo-based photographers belonging to the African diaspora, whose works will render abstracted ocean topographies through a pictorial exploration of hair braiding practices that travel the globe with the movement of people.

Angela Tiatia’s poetic film works offer us a poignant and timely reminder of the imminent threat of a changing climate upon Pacific island communities and low-lying island communities globally.

Individually the artists in Undertow speak to and from their own unique experiences, ideas, concerns and histories, each offering a sense of who they are and the spaces they occupy in the worlds we share. From a wider view however, the artists are interrogating issues which impact all our lives, from persecution, migration, nationalism, systemic racism, custodianship of Country and the continued threats of climate change and sea level rise – collectively expressing a deep care and concern for humanity and the natural world at a time of unprecedented instability and disruption.

Fremantle Arts Centre

Housed in a gothic heritage building in Fremantle’s east end, Fremantle Arts Centre (FAC) is the City of Fremantle’s premier arts service and one of the leading arts organisations in Australia.

FAC presents contemporary visual art exhibitions and a varied program of concerts and events. With a wide range of art courses for adults and kids, an Artist in Residence program, FOUND – FAC's on-site shop which stocks an exquisite range of WA-designed products, a quaint café and beautiful leafy grounds, there are always plenty of reasons to visit.

FAC’s commitment to supporting artists is at the heart of all the centre’s programming and activities.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of this page.

Click here to download the Creative Learning resource for Undertow.

Time & Location


Gallery Opening Times

Mon – Sun 10am – 5pm

Exhibition Opening
Fri 4 Feb 6.30pm

Stay COVID Safe

Perth Festival will be implementing all government orders relating to COVID-19 and we have updated our ticketing Terms & Conditions accordingly. It is a condition of entry at all Perth Festival 2022 events and venues that patrons 16 years and over must demonstrate proof of a double dose COVID-19 vaccination or a medical exemption sufficient to meet WA State Government requirements.

Please visit our COVID safe page for the most up-to-date information.

Thank you


  • Sonja Carmichael & Elisa Jane Carmichael, 'Balgagu gara (come celebrate)', 2020, cyanotype on cotton. Photo: Grant Hancock Courtesy the artists, Onespace Gallery and the Art Gallery of South Australia
Website by Bravo!