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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Souliere was born in Toronto, Ontario. As a child she attended an after-school program for Indigenous children in Toronto, where she was encouraged to engage in her culture through traditional song, dance, storytelling and art making. This immersion in the traditions and values of First Nation peoples was reinforced by her family, and continues to fuel her artistic thinking. Souliere recognises and identifies with the many socio-political Indigenous issues in Australia, as these issues have many parallels in North America. It was this trans-Pacific move that enabled her to examine her background from new perspectives, which now inform her work. It was in Australia that she began her formal training and development of her professional arts practice and began to be shown in exhibitions. Prior to living in Australia, Souliere’s art activities were grounded in the making of traditional First Nation regalia and objects for her own personal use as a traditional dancer and for sale at market stalls. Souliere obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons) from Sydney College of the Arts in 2004, a Masters of Visual Arts from Sydney College of the Arts in 2006 and commenced a PhD in 2010 from Sydney College of the Arts, where her primary research focuses on Indigenous artists from Australia and North America and its integration into contemporary art practice. Souliere was a finalist in the Helen Lempriere Travelling Art Scholarship in 2006 and 2007; a finalist in the Fauvette Loureiro Memorial Artists Travel Scholarship in 2008 and in 2011 was a finalist in the David Harold Tribe Sculpture Prize. She has participated in 27 group exhibitions including the 2010 Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, curated by Gerald McMaster, in Toronto, Canada and Point of Origin, curated by Gary Pearson, in 2008 at Artspace, Sydney. In 2012, Souliere was curated in the group exhibition Beat Nation, curated by Kathleen Ritter and Tania Willard, which travelled the length and breadth of Canada from 2012-2014. Beat Nation explores the intersections between Aboriginal cultures, hip-hop, politics and art hijacking symbols from skateboard, bike, hip-hop and graffiti scenes to claim new spaces for native culture. In Australia, she has collaborated with artist Mikala Dwyer and art collective Alterbeast for the exhibition Alterbeast at Penrith Regional Galleries and at Anna Schwartz Gallery in Melbourne and Sara Cottier Gallery in Sydney. Souliere had her first Australian solo exhibition in 2003, at Newspace Gallery in Sydney, and her first in Canada came in 2008 at Grunt Gallery, Vancouver. Souliere has subsequently held solo exhibitions GPS (The Good Red Road) at Peloton Gallery, Sydney in 2009, I am JUST not that good at following directions at The New Gallery, Calgary in 2010 and CrossRoads, at Urban Shaman gallery, Winnipeg in 2011. Souliere has been the recipient of visual art grants, such as marketing grants from the Australian National Association of the Visual Arts in 2006 and 2012 and the New Work Grant by the Canada Council in 2012. Souliere was the director of the student-run gallery Newspace from 2001-03 and was a committee member of ARTPORT (a joint initiative of Sydney’s artist-run spaces and the Museums and Galleries Foundation of NSW) in 2003-04. She has been a member of the (Australian) National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA). She has tutored and taught painting, sculpture, performance and installation across Sydney’s three main arts institutions: Sydney College of the Arts, the National Art School and the College of Fine Arts. Souliere participates in workshops, artist presentations nationally and internationally and artist residency programs, previously working at the University of Newcastle; Artspace, Sydney; the University of Manitoba; University of British Columbia (Okanagan); and Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. Working primarily with sculpture, installations and more recently, collage, Souliere combines hard-edge abstraction, organic forms, the handmade and the assisted readymade to address aspects of First Nation culture and Indigenous people(s) issues on a global scale. Souliere’s visual language is grounded in her traditional culture, while simultaneously being attuned to Western aesthetic sensibilities. Traditional Indigenous processes such as weaving, knotting, binding and wrapping are central to her practice, as are references to performance and traditional Anishinabek worldviews. Souliere uses feathers, lampshades and human hair as well as objects connected to driving and the road: automotive parts, lights, reflectors, road signs, and traffic control tape. The latter materials can be read as the markers of a long history of land appropriations, authority, regulation and control. Souliere’s work with these road-related objects has been described as a “culturally interruptive… intervention [that works] against the pressure of colonial imposition”. In her work Points Of Origin (2008), Souliere has created a cluster of metal road signs on poles, but replaces the usual, mass-produced, laser cut graphics with vibrant hand-cut patterns on reflective vinyl based on traditional motifs. This reversal of the usual direction of the superimposition of one language and/or culture over another renders the signs unreadable to the average western viewer. Souliere’s work challenges the notion that road signs can be universally or unambiguously understood and asks the viewer to question whose law is being asserted through such directives and over whom do they have authority? Souliere’s signs do not give directions, but – as recognisable to a specific audience – speak of other types of guidance for the journey of life, knowledge passed down from generation to generation through traditional legends and mythology. Materiality and Otherness, Souliere’s 2008 exhibition at Grunt Gallery, exhibited one of Souliere’s best known works, Aspects of the Skyworld, which consisted of a series of wall-mounted, circular objects, shaped like cones or hourglasses. The exteriors of these objects are covered with pheasant and guinea fowl feathers that flutter invitingly as they catch the breezes from an open door or people walking past. This tactile exterior is matched by the brightly coloured interior of red, green, orange or purple wools that evoke the interior of a flower. The textured sculptures seem almost alive, watching and listening to everything in the room, a kind of bizarre surveillance in feathered form. The objects, meant to recall birds in flight, were inspired by a traditional Anishinabek legend, the song of the Whirling Rainbow Woman, who catches the rain and nurtures the earth. Souliere’s Thunderbirds and Young Binessiwags series (both 2006) use installations of car headlights and taillights to reference the Anishinabek legend of the Thunderbirds or Binessiwags, whose flashing eyes would create the lightning in a storm. To avoid attracting the attention of the Thunderbird, shiny or reflective objects would customarily be hidden during a storm. The title of Souliere’s 2009 exhibition, The Good Red Road, at Peloton Gallery, Sydney, references the notion of “the one who is walking the road of a balanced life”, an idea which is common to many Native American communities, both as an ethical code and a cosmology. Souliere’s work is asking thoughtful questions about the sustainability of the mainstream capitalist and consumerist North American or Western lifestyle. More specifically, Souliere’s work is asking where these roads are leading us and why we are not heeding any of the warning signs. In 2013, Souliere began working on a social art project, “The Collage of Indigenization”, where participants are invited to make a collage on what they feel it means to be Indigenous today. As part of this project Souliere conducts collage workshops to demonstrate the technique. Souliere launched the project at Artbank NT in Alice Springs, and has conducted residencies and workshops at the Yamaji Art Centre in Geraldton, WA, Mullewa Women’s Centre, WA, Ngurratjuta Many Hands Art Centre in Alice Springs, NT, and Geraldon Youth Center, WA. In November 2013, Souliere conducted a collage workshop at the eighteenth MCA ARTBAR, as curated by Tony Albert. In June 2014, Souliere will host a residency at the annual Barkly Art Camp in Tennant Creek, NT, which is run by Desart for the 45 art centres it administers. Ultimately, Souliere intends to generate a 34 metre collage from workshops conducted nationally and internationally. Souliere’s work is held in private collections in Australia and Canada. Writers: Zoe Wilesmith Date written: 2014 Last updated: 2014
b. 1975
Rolande Souliere is an Australian-based and Canadian-born artist of Anishinabe descent and is a member of Michipicoten First Nation. Souliere produces work that juxtaposes her Anishinabek culture and contemporary life in a globalised environment as inspired by her Indigenous upbringing in Canada and her life in Australia over the past eighteen years. Souliere became an Australian citizen in 2006.
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