Christopher Bassi unveils his largest painting to date, ‘Meeting The Mangrove’, at the 18th Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Inner Sanctum

1 Mar 2024

Christopher Bassi paints scenes and objects that connect him to people and places in the Torres Strait and Cape York Peninsula. His image-making acknowledges a deep connection and belonging to his matrilineal Meriam and paternal Yupungathi heritage, which, alongside his British and Muslim Indian ancestral ties, gives him a unique perspective for considering ideas of heritage, history and experience. Bassi’s paintings also draw from European oil painting traditions, particularly figurative and still life genres, recognising how they have privileged specific understandings of the world.

In Meeting a Mangrove, Bassi uses the creation narrative from the Book of Genesis, in which God gives life to Adam through a single touch, but here the artist connects with his Meriam totem, a red mangrove, based on those seen in the coastal areas of Butchulla Country in southeast Queensland. It is a gesture that centres Indigenous knowledge systems and acknowledges the wisdom in non-human lifeforms and asks viewers to reflect on their own relationship with the natural world. In the accompanying poem, Bassi describes the relationship between the body and the long life of the mangrove and all that it has witnessed – the connection between both offers a moment of transformation, in which the human body comes to understand ‘everything all at once’ when physically encountering this vital plant in its habitat.

View this monumental painting at the Art Gallery of South Australia from now until 2 June 2024.

Image: Installation view of installation view: 18th Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Inner Sanctum 2024 featuring Meeting The Mangrove by Christopher Bassi, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, photo: Saul Steed. Courtesy of the artist and the Art Gallery of South Australia.