Born 1960 Dubbo, New South Wales. Wiradjuri/Gamilaroi people. Died 2004.
Aboriginal Art Poster for the AGNSW Circa 2004
Michael Riley moved to the suburb of Redfern, Sydney from the country town of Dubbo in the
late 1970s. He was drawn to the energy of the big city and the political activism taking place in
Redfern at the time. He was interested in the possibilities of populated city living–
“(I) wanted to….get out and get into the city and do something different and see different things and meet different
In the 1980s Michael made a series of portraits of young urban Aboriginal people–
who were doing their own thing, mixing into society, trying to break the stereotype of who Aboriginal people
Riley also wanted to break the negative stereotype of aboriginal people propagated in the
media. His contribution was to take photographs of the exciting and creative group of people that
surrounded him, his friends and family.
Maria is a portrait of Michael’s cousin Polly (also known as Maria). His style of portrait taking was
very disengaged and casual “letting events take their natural course.”(Perkins, Hetti) 1 The image Maria, used in
this poster, exemplifies a comfort and trust that Polly felt in Riley’s presence resulting in a frank
and engaging gaze back at the camera.
Maria was first exhibited in 1986 during NAIDOC week at the Aboriginal Artists Gallery, Sydney.
It was part of a series of five portraits of Indigenous women, each referencing different genres
of female portraiture. Maria being without clothes and with a simple shell necklace seems to be
appropriating ethnographic photography.
This poster is an advertisement for the Yiribana Gallery, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Gallery at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Yiribana means ‘this way’ in the language of the
Eora people acknowledging the location of the gallery on Gadigal country.
1Perkins, Hetti art + soul: a journey into the world of Aboriginal art The Miegunyah Press, Carlton, Vic 2010
Have a look at the Art + Soul documentary website. Produced by the ABC, Hetti Perkins speaks to a range of Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander artists.