all things are water //

8 DECEMBER 2019 - 26 JANUARY 2020

A group show curated by Meryl Ryan and Naomi Riddle that rethinks water as an environment, as a site of escape, as an emotional state, and as a necessity for survival.


8 DECEMBER 2019 - 26 JANUARY 2020 


‘Water is something you cannot hold’, writes the poet Anne Carson in Plainwater (1995). It is an element always on the cusp of transformation (moving between vapour, liquid and ice), but it is also an element with a slipperiness that makes it difficult to define.  

All things are water, curated by Meryl Ryan and Naomi Riddle at The Lock-Up, takes water as its defining feature. Moving between video, installation, photography and painting, this exhibition rethinks water as an environment, as a site of escape, as an emotional state, as a metaphor for time, as a contaminant, and as a necessity for survival. But all things are water also acts as an elegy. That is, the works contained in this exhibition speak to the impending ecological crisis, and an Australian landscape increasingly defined by an absence of water rather than its surplus.  

While the rush and charge of the element (in all its forms) will be present inside the gallery space, the exhibition’s backdrop is a region defined by an unprecedented years-long drought and a brutal bushfire season. Set against this, water as an element transforms into a precious rarity and a longed-for substance—it becomes the promise of sustenance, instead of its actuality.  

Featuring artists Tom Blake, Dale Collier, Ellen Dahl, Michaela Gleave, Hannah Jenkins, Todd McMillan, Talia Smith, Angela Tiatia.  



Meryl Ryan is an established widely travelled curator, editor and arts writer with a long-term interest in interdisciplinary practice. As an ANU postgraduate and inaugural recipient of the Janet Wilkie Memorial Scholarship for Fine Art, she studied and worked abroad for seven years (including three as editor for Quarto Publishing, London, UK) before returning to Australia in the 1990s, an elected member of AICA (British Section). Since then she has been a regular contributor to catalogues and symposia, journals and newspapers (including 5 years at Fairfax Media; 4 years, RA Magazine, UK); a cultural producer and lecturer (with 4 years at the UoN, School of Fine Art, NSW). Ryan is currently Senior Curator at MAC, Lake Macquarie. To date, attracting esteemed contemporary makers, she has produced over 80 exhibitions and many award-winning publications. Most recent major projects with Lake Macquarie include us. (universal stories) (2019); Headquarters (2018/19); BOARD (2017-18), Book Club (2017), Happyness (2015/16) and (in)visible: The First Peoples and War (2015). Since 2015, she has also consulted on several projects at The Lock-Up, including the original Art Bender (two one-night-only exhibitions). Ryan was invited to Australia’s annual National Craft Curators Forums from 2010–12, and was recipient of the 2009 ASIALINK Curatorial Exchange to Japan, and the 2013 Museums & Galleries NSW Fellowship to the Museum of Arts & Design, New York, USA. 


Naomi Riddle is a writer and the founding editor of Running Dog, an online arts magazine that publishes weekly articles on contemporary art. She has written for Guernica Magazine, Oberon, Blonde Art Books, Sydney Review of Books, Das Platforms Online and HTMLgiant among others. In 2018, Naomi was selected as one of twelve participants for Triple Canopy’s Publication Intensive in Los Angeles.  

Naomi holds a PhD in Australian Literature from the University of New South Wales (2015) and her work on the Australian author Elizabeth Harrower has been published in Southerly. She teaches poetry and rhetoric at the National Institute of Dramatic Art. 

IMAGE: Tom Blake Loop (II) 2019, three-channel video, phone screens, mono audio, continuous loop, dimensions variable