Ryan Presley, The Dunes 2021 (detail). Photography by Carl Warner. Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

3 September – 29 October

Ryan Presley 


Mark Feary and Patrice Sharkey  


ACE Open, Lion Arts Centre, North Terrace, Adelaide SA

Opening hours:

Tues – Sat, 11am – 4pm

  • Wheelchair Access

Fresh Hell brings together a suite of paintings that Brisbane-based artist Ryan Presley has been steadily developing over the past eight years, for the first time in a major solo exhibition.

Presley’s practice wrestles with themes of power and dominion—in particular, how religion and economic control served colonialism and empire building over time, and the representation of its customs and edifices in our everyday lives.

Fresh Hell is informed by Presley’s own Catholic upbringing and experience, having been baptised in a desert township; Alice Springs. Large-scale oil paintings are detailed and layered with meaning, often referencing the canon of Western religious works that span from the Icon schools, Middle Ages, Renaissance periods through to the current day. These historical referents are, however, re-interpreted by casting young Aboriginal people as the key protagonists in recent pasts and foreseeable futures.

‘Fresh hell’ is a sardonic term used to describe when things go from bad to worse very quickly and inexplicably. Over the last ten years Presley has built a reputation for re-appraising difficult histories and, in the context of this new body of work, the exhibition title tells us something of the admonition the artist wishes to make against the ongoing treatment of Aboriginal people.

Following the premiere of Fresh Hell at ACE, the exhibition will be presented at Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne, in early 2023.

About the artist

Dr. Ryan Presley was born in 1987 in Alice Springs, and currently lives and works in Brisbane. His father’s family is Marri Ngarr and originate from the Moyle River region in the Northern Territory. His mother’s family were Scandinavian immigrants to Australia. Presley’s work has been included in Hungry for Time, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna; Just Not Australian, Artspace, Sydney (2019); Trade Markings (Frontier Imaginaries Ed No. 5), Van Abbemuseum, Netherlands (2018); the 33rd Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, Darwin; and the TarraWarra Biennial: Endless Circulation (both 2016). His first major solo exhibition, Ryan Presley: Prosperity, was held at the Institute of Modern Art in 2018. Presley’s work is held in public collections at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, and the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (all in Australia). Presley completed a PhD at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, in 2016.


Ryan Presley: Fresh Hell is a co-commission by ACE Open, Adelaide, and Gertrude, Melbourne. 

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.