IAN THOMAS

Dancing in the Moonlight

February 17 – March 16, 2024

moonlight

Ian Thomas

CAMP  2024,

Canvas lettering, tulle ruffles, brass grommets, acrylic paint, fringing on vintage canvas tent, 295 x 146cm, image courtesy the artist.

$2,500

 

This work uses a vintage tent side as the base. A simple geometric mandala painted underneath the lettering, references David Johnstone’s pioneering gay commune – Mandala – which was established in 1973 outside Uki. The pink triangle, previously a symbol of hate, was reclaimed and inverted by the ACT UP movement of AIDS activists in the late 1980s. (And referenced by representatives from Mandala with their pink triangular teepee at the 1983 10th Anniversary Alternative Lifestyle Celebration in Nimbin). The word CAMP refers to what you do in a tent – this was the only accommodation available to early visitors to Mandala. It is still an activity favoured by many in the queer community, as evidenced by the Van Dykes – an Australian group of lesbian campers and van owners. Established in 2017 by Northern Rivers resident, Leonie Dickinson, the Van Dykes are inspired by a caravan of lesbians that travelled the US and Mexico during the 1970s – seeking a life of “radical rebellion and feminist empowerment”. CAMP is also an acronym for the pioneering Campaign Against Moral Persecution – Australia’s first organised political movement which fought for queer equality from 1971. Finally, it refers to an aesthetic sensibility often associated with the queer community - as Susan Sontag wrote in ‘Notes on “Camp”’ in 1964, “the whole point of Camp is to dethrone the serious”.

Moonlight

Ian Thomas

Breakout  2023,

Handsewn stuffed fabric lettering, perspex mirrors, velvet flowers on patchwork flag based

on colours of Non-Binary Pride flag, 235 x 175cm, $2,200.

Photography by Karim Konrad.

 

The Breakout Ball on 11 June 1988 was the first social event organised by The Tropical Fruits, a lesbian and gay social group for the Northern Rivers community. Editorial copy in the first edition of Fruit Juice, the Tropical Fruits newsletter, read, “We hope to see you all there. And bring ya friends”. Tropical Fruits parties have subsequently become a mainstay event on the national queer calendar, particularly their New Year’s Eve parties in Lismore which continue to this day.

Moonlight

Ian Thomas

Space  2024,

Handsewn fabric lettering, stuffed opera gloves on patchwork flag based on colours of

Bisexual Pride flag, 232 x 150cm, $2,000.

Photography by Karim Konrad.

 

Holding space is an important concept in the LGBTQIA+ community. Heather Plett, author of ‘The Art of Holding Space: A practice of love, liberation and leadership’, provides a good working definition. Holding space means “walking alongside a person or group on a journey…without making them feel inadequate, without trying to fix them, without trying to impact the outcome”.

Moonlight

Ian Thomas

Moonlight  2023,

Pleather lettering, brass grommets on patchwork flag based on colours of Gay Men’s Pride

flag, 218 x 116cm, $1,800.

Photography by Karim Konrad.

 

The “Radical Faeries” are a loosely affiliated worldwide network and countercultural movement seeking to redefine queer consciousness through secular spirituality. There has been a Radical Faeries presence in the Northern Rivers since 1982, with a Faerie sanctuary being formally established as “Faeryland” in 2002 and continuing to this day. This work is based on the working title of an international Radical Faeries reader which was eventually published in 2011 under the title, “The Fire in Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries 1975–2010”. Given the history of full moon celebrations and rituals at Mandala, it seemed an appropriate title for this exhibition.

Moonlight

Ian Thomas

Rainbow  2023,

Machine sewn denim lettering, fringed Indian mirrors on patchwork flag based on colours of

Lesbian Pride flag, 240 x 110cm, $1,800.

Photography by Karim Konrad.

 

This text is taken from the song ‘Rainbow Sleeves’ which was gifted by Tom Waits to Rickie Lee Jones in the 1978 when she was suffering with addiction issues. They were together as a couple at the time, but Jones only recorded the song in 1983 when she had recovered, and they had separated. Taking the lyric out of its original context, it feels like a poignant message of support for members of the queer community who are struggling with their sexual identity.

 

Moonlight

Ian Thomas

Magic  2023,

Hand knitted/hand sewn lettering, various embellishments, acrylic paint on patchwork flag

based on colours of Trans Pride flag, 200 x 100cm, $1,500.

Photography by Karim Konrad.

 

It’s Magic was the name of a Radical Faeries gathering at Mandala which ran from 3 – 15 September 1984, and followed the 10th National Conference of Lesbians and Gay Men at the University of Queensland.

 

Moonlight

Ian Thomas

Summerland  2023,

Machine sewn vinyl lettering, fringing, Indian tassels on patchwork flag based on colours of

Pansexual Pride flag, 132 x 195cm, SOLD

Photography by Karim Konrad.

 

 

Following an acrimonious split along gender lines of the Northern Rivers Gay Group (est.1981) at the end of 1982, the lesbian community formed Summerland Gay Women which soon morphed into Summerland Gay People – a queer social and activist group.

I use “summer land” in this work to refer to the Northern Rivers area and the exodus of many gay men who wanted to escape the AIDS epidemic in Sydney, either to relocate to a more rural lifestyle or to find a more peaceful place to live out their final months. In the same way that gay men in the US relocated from New York to San Francisco during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s (referenced by The Pet Shop Boys in their 1993 rework of “Go West”), many men, particularly from Sydney went north seeking solace in the endless summer land of Byron and the Northern Rivers.

 

Moonlight

Ian Thomas

Lovers  2024,

Hand sewn fabric lettering, sequined appliques and vintage jewellery on patchwork flag

based on colours of Genderqueer Pride flag, 100 x 175cm, $1,500.

Photography by Karim Konrad.

 

This work is a celebration of all the lovers in our community. Because lovers rock. It is also dedicated to my lover’s rock. “The rock that I cling to/You’re the one/The one I swim to in a storm/Like a lover’s rock”. (Sade Adu)

Moonlight

Ian Thomas

Heaven  2023,

Vinyl lettering, metal eyelets, marabou feathers on patchwork flag of upcycled

suiting/shirting fabrics, 90 x 200cm, $1,500.

Photography by Karim Konrad.

 

A Slice of Heaven was a women only rural retreat from 1988 to 2020 in the Tweed Valley which provided a place of sisterhood, pleasure and escape. A lesbian elder who I interviewed for this project, described the parties that happened there as “a little too tame” for her taste, so I referenced gay leather culture in this work to make it a little less tame for her.

Moonlight

Ian Thomas

Million  2022,

Handsewn pearl buttons, fringing on vintage glitter acetate fabric, 200 x 90cm, $1,200.

Photography by Karim Konrad.

 

Based on a 1990 protest badge, with the addition of symbols used by English Pearly Kings and Queens to denote community, love and strength plus an electrical symbol meaning male to male.

Moonlight

Ian Thomas

Familia  2023,

Handsewn pearl buttons, spray paint on overdyed vintage nylon lace, 190 x 80cm, $1,200.

Photography by Karim Konrad.

 

For LGBTQIA+ people, the bonds between friends can be liberating and transformative, particularly if they are estranged from their biological family. Chosen family refers to “non biological kinship bonds that many people choose because they need mutual support and love. Many times…people are drawn to chosen families because they’ve experienced rejection from their families of origin. Chosen families allow them to create the families they want”. (Trevor Gates-Crandall quoted in NY Times 25/6/22)

 

Moonlight

Ian Thomas

Disco  2023,

Handsewn pearl buttons on upcycled wool suit jacket, 170 x 40cm (dimensions variable), $600.

Photography by Karim Konrad.

 

Based on Bob Hay’s 1979 poster for CAMP NSW inviting “men new and not so new to the gay scene” to a dance at the Glebe club rooms of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution.

OPENING NIGHT UP LATE: 7-9PM FRIDAY 16 FEBRUARY 2024 WITH A PERFORMANCE FROM QING MIBILAHM 

IN CONVERSATION: THE WHOLE QUEER STORY, IAN THOMAS, ZENITH VIRAGO & IAN TEACOSY GRAY ON 10.30AM SATURDAY 16 MARCH 2024  Read More>

"Dancing in the Moonlight is a celebration of our vibrant and diverse queer community, an ode to the joy and resilience that binds us under the moonlit sky. It honours the power of love and the solidarity that emerges from shared experiences.

Each piece is a vibrant testament to the kaleidoscopic spectrum of queerness - a gathering of identities that bloom like wildflowers, unapologetically colourful and diverse. Just as the moonlight illuminates the darkness, our queer community sheds light on the world with resilience and a radiant spirit that transcends boundaries.

Highlighting often overlooked narratives, the work references the transformative energy and boundless creativity of the Northern Rivers queer communities.

In a shared space of colour and exhilaration, I’d like to acknowledge the fearlessness of queer elders who paved the way, the unity of coming together and the strength that comes from being unapologetically, authentically, and joyfully ourselves." Ian Thomas, 2023.

The exhibition also contains documents and images relating to Tropical Fruits and the wider queer history of the Northern Rivers from the archives of local community historian, Ian 'Teacosy' Gray.

BIO

In a more than twenty year career, Ian Thomas staged 20 solo exhibitions and had work included in numerous group shows in Sydney, Melbourne and London. Career highlights have included a residency and solo show at Factory 49 Paris; a public commission for the Newtown Art Seat for Mardi Gras 2019; showing as part of Pride Amplified during World Pride 2023; being a finalist in the Churchie Emerging Art Prize and receiving a highly commended award in the 2022 and 2023 Art Edit Self-Represented Art Prize.

His work is held in private and corporate collections throughout Australasia and Europe, having been purchased by such varied collectors as fashion designer, Colette Dinnigan and Melbourne’s five star Grand Hyatt Hotel. He is also a featured artist in the Sheraton Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Sydney. He has been selected to show at The Other Art Fair on nine occasions, in Sydney, Melbourne and London, was nominated in Vogue Living as one of five talents to watch at TOAF, Melbourne and was chosen as a feature artist by the Chief Curator and VP, Art Advisory at Saatchi Art. His work has appeared in many publications including GQ, Home Beautiful, Real Living and the Sydney Morning Herald.

www.ianthomasart.com.au   @ianthomasart

About Qing Mibilahm:

Benja Roberts (AKA Qing Mibilahm) is a Bundjalung man living on Bundjalung jugun. He is a singer, song writer and producer with over 15 years experience in the music and arts industry. He is particularly drawn to soul, R&B and blues genres. Benja uses music as a form to process and deal with personal struggles, as well as share his culture. @mibilahm