Mish & Tricky: A New Kind of Union

A tribute to those who shaped our history but get none of the glory, A New Kind of Union carries an almost defiant message, but delivers it in a way that is all playful celebration and no austerity.

New Norfolk-based artists Mish Meijers and Tricky Walsh collaborated on the visually arresting artwork, which was specifically commissioned for the refurbished upstairs gallery of the QVMAG.

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Partners in art and in life, Mish Meijers and Tricky Walsh at QVMAG Royal Park. Image: Jacob Collings

In keeping with the gallery’s mission to spark new conversations about Tasmania’s history and identity, A New Kind of Union uses its explosion of colour, geometric shapes and rounded ceramics to create an homage to forms of labour that often go unnoticed.

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An explosion of colour, geometric shapes and rounded ceramics in A New Kind of Union. Image: Angela Casey 

“I think it’s better for people to be able to come to new ideas through conversation, not from being lectured at, because that just makes people defensive,” Walsh says.

“If we can provide a way that is subconscious or subliminal, I think that works much better. For me, everything is open for discussion, I don’t think anything is taboo.

“As people, we collectively made a lot of mistakes, so we need to acknowledge that and work better in the future. We don’t need to be lectured or be taken too seriously, we just need to try harder.”

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A site specific comission for QVMAG Royal Park in A New Kind of Union. Image: Angela Casey  

The installation itself takes up an entire gallery wall, comprising brightly coloured geometric paintings on wooden panels by Walsh, and ceramics/mixed media on shelves by Meijers. The work also incorporates a poem written by Walsh.

The artwork is a response to our society’s tendency to memorialise and glorify only certain kinds of contributions: war heroes, rich landowners, law-makers, the kinds of historical figures who are almost exclusively white and male.

A New Kind of Union reflects on acknowledging those other heroic community members who are usually unsung. The invisible, unnamed, anonymous, and forgotten people who made significant contributions with quiet voices, and sacrifices that go unremembered.

“It’s interesting because the QVMAG is very close to the Cenotaph, which is an example of how we tend to only memorialise people who have made a particular kind of sacrifice,” Walsh says. “But there are so many different types of sacrifices that people make to shape our society.

“This artwork is to remind us all that we are standing on the shoulders of millions of others and the things they’ve done for us, and we can still appreciate their efforts even if we don’t know who they are.”

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Bright. Bold. Big. A New Kind of Union by Mish Meijers and Tricky Walsh at QVMAG Royal Park. Image: Mel de Ruyter   

“It is a memorial but also an ode,” Meijers says. “It’s about celebrating all those different personalities, which is why we did it specifically to be loud and celebratory. Museums are traditionally subdued places, and if you’re very important, then you have a very serious portrait on the wall.

“But how about just going: Hey! Let's celebrate all those people who have done wonderful things! We wanted the bright colours to be embracing and welcoming, a bit of a punch in the face, like turning a corner and seeing a party at the end of the street that you want to join.”