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Jan 20 2021

Obituary: Adrian Jones (1958–2021)

by Elizabeth Ho

A portrait of ADRIAN JONES. Photo by Tristan Jones. Courtesy Judy Freya Sibayan.

On January 8, conceptual and installation artist Adrian Jones passed away at the age of 63 from pancreatic cancer in his hometown, Perth.  

Jones devoted much of his career to public art projects, exploring the history of Australia and Aboriginal culture, art activism, and the conditions of urbanization. After receiving his MFA from the University of Tasmania, Jones launched an artist-exchange program between Australia and New Zealand, which led to him building a multinational network of artists and thinkers from Australia and Southeast Asia. From 1987 to 1993, he was the coordinator of ARX (originally, the Australia and Regions Exchange, later renamed the Artists Regional Exchange), whose network of artists from Southeast Asia contributed to their participation in the first Asia Pacific Triennal in 1993 at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane. ARX participants included Lisa Reihana and Peter Robinson (New Zealand); Matthew Ngui (Singapore); Ismail Zain and Wong Hoy Cheong (Malaysia); FX Harsono, Jim Supungkat, and Aramaiani (Indonesia); Apinan Poshyananda and Pinaree Sanpitak (Thailand), as well as Julie Ewington, Destiny Deacon, Hossein Valamanesh, Simryn Gill, and many others from Australia. It was also through ARX that Jones met the Philippine independent curator and critic Marian Pastor Roces, with whom he would spend many decades as life-partners and creative collaborators.

His permanent installation at Perth Central Railway Station, Project Text-tiles (1991), comprises 15 brass terrazzo tiles embedded in the paving of Platform 5 with quotes from community members such as railway employees and longtime commuters. In 1994, he created The Missing Room for Domus Academy Winter School at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, a project about traveling personal spaces. In 1997, he collaborated with conceptual artist and friend Judy Freya Sibayan for Auto/Biography, recording his art practice and accomplishments to date, for Sibayan’s nomadic performance gallery, Scapular Gallery Nomad (SGN) (1996–2002), a portable micro-gallery that she wore around her neck every day and on her travels.  

In collaboration with Pastor Roces, Jones’s conceptual designs were exhibited internationally, including for the Philippine Pavilion at Expo 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain. Following the theme of water and sustainable development, the pavilion featured aquatic elements and was filled with transparent spheres, highlighting the Philippine’s archipelagic provinces. This concept won that year’s Grand Prix for Best Designed Pavilion. At Expo 2010 in Shanghai, their design concept for the Philippine Pavilion featured painted colorful hands on the exterior of the pavilion, drawing attention to the country’s healers, artists, and builders. 

To commemorate Jones’s life, Pastor Roces wrote on January 14 that, “Adrian built himself a hermitage to protect him from the ego-manic nastiness of the art world. Instead, he spent his life nurturing a handful of friends. . . [he] followed an enduring drive to combine discipline and kindness to be the administrative context of art-making — often to help obscure regional artists.”

Elizabeth Ho is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

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