Introducing our Curator

Mandana Mapar is an independent curator based in Brisbane. Since 2003, Mandana has curated major exhibition projects with communities and organisations throughout Queensland, presenting exhibitions and public programs for museums, galleries, and festivals. Mandana is committed to developing and presenting visual arts and social history exhibitions and experiences that celebrate the intrinsic value of storytelling to connect diverse communities and audiences.

Mandana has received recognition for curatorial work with projects developed for Gold Coast City Art Gallery and Ballina Shire Regional Council. Selected as peer assessor on the Visual Arts panel of the Australia Council for the Arts, Mandana has also collaborated with the Queensland Poetry Festival, curated major public arts projects for Queensland Rail and the Bleach Festival, worked as curator and workshop facilitator with Access Arts, and presented exhibitions as an artist working with Artist Run Initiatives on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane.

An important curatorial milestone for Mandana was the exhibition ey! Iran, Contemporary Iranian Photography, launched at Gold Coast City Art Gallery in 2006 as part of the inaugural Queensland Photography Festival. This exhibition subsequently toured throughout Australia and New Zealand to regional galleries and museums.

Most recently Mandana has held curatorial positions working with the Queensland Museum, and University of Queensland Anthropology Museum.

A message from Mandana

The Recovered Futures Art Exhibition celebrates its 30-year anniversary in 2021, and it is befitting that this year’s milestone exhibition returns to King George Square and Brisbane City Hall after a one-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From humble beginnings in 1991, this inclusive annual art exhibition has featured artworks by Queensland artists with a lived experience of mental illness. Guided by the curatorial acumen of guest curators Frank McBride, Karleen Gwinner, Lee Steer, Anyssa Chorvat, and Sophie Kubler, the exhibition has championed the work of artists at various locations throughout Brisbane annually.

The innate human need for self-expression during difficult times has in the past led to the creation of significant works of art as lasting testaments to the human condition. War and famine, natural disasters, and degradation of the environment have been depicted through various artforms to serve as a record and reflection of the lived experiences of artists during crises. Since the global pandemic began, restrictions on public gatherings and travel have forced many artists and organisations to postpone or outright cancel exhibitions and public programs. Combined with long periods of isolation and separation, the pandemic has had a profound effect on the livelihoods and the mental health of many in our communities.

Artists are compelled to create works during these strained times which reflect upon familiar themes of the everyday, their immediate surroundings, and their rich imaginations in order to find meaning, hope and order. The resulting artworks allow opportunities for viewers to try and make some sense of the confounding uncertainty that we have all felt at some point during the past 18 months, while helping to raise awareness and combat the stigma which continues to surround mental illness at precisely such salient times.

During COVID-19 lockdown periods, the everyday, the mundane, even a walk to the local shops to buy milk could spark a moment, and a new way to see the world around us from a different vantage point. As time slowed down immeasurably, our senses were reacquainted with the slower rhythms of life. Daily walks, precious minutes in backyards, forests and parks took on a completely different meaning. There will undoubtedly be more challenging times ahead, yet the very intention and action of making artwork, to dispel fears, to meditate upon, and to purge internal (and external) noise, has taken on an even greater urgency, purpose and meaning.

It is with a sense of hope and optimism that this year’s selected artists consider some of their most challenging and inspiring moments, and share common themes of love, loss, a renewed sense of self awareness and for some, a profound reconnection to nature. The artist statements are poignant and revealing, a few excerpts reflective of the positive impact of creative expression. Observations of nature... Taking refuge in the wilderness... Using the time making art to heal... Inspired by the colours of nature... A direct reflection of my immediate surroundings; my emotions and an imaginary world that exists in my mind; a place where I go to, to escape and get lost within… Collecting treasures and keepsakes for works of art…Through art, I feel a support network… Tales of falling in love...

On display are lifelike and otherworldly landscapes depicting flowers, trees, birds, insects, lions, and elephants. Time amongst nature as a way to recover and heal is a common theme, with still life paintings and portraits of beloved pets featured in the exhibition. These artworks are the wonderful result of the immersion of one’s senses, of treasuring the very tactile and sensorial pleasures of creating art and the experimentation and joy that originates in the anticipation of willing a work into creation. A broad range of mediums are represented in this exhibition including works on paper, acrylic and oil paintings, photography, textile, and mixed media works, reflective of the diverse artistic practices of the artists from throughout Queensland. The artists' personal approach to their practise highlights the importance of tapping into creative outlets to promote positive mental health and emotional wellbeing.

To the artists of the 2021 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition, I congratulate you on your dedicated practises. I acknowledge your time, and dedication to creating high calibre artworks for Brisbane and Australian audiences to enjoy at a time when we are all in much need of culture and creativity as inspiration.