William Mora Galleries

Ellen José Selection

Caught one more time
1999, oil on Belgian linen, 19 x 61cm

Night Watch
1999, oil on Belgian linen, diptych, 152.5 x 92cm

1998, oil on Belgian linen, 92 x 92cm

Silent Witness
1999, oil on Belgian linen, diptych, 152.5 x 92cm

1998, oil on Belgian linen, 92 x 92cm

Biography and Qualifications

Born Cairns, 1951
Currently lives and works in Melbourne
Diploma of Education, Melbourne State College, Melbourne, 1979
Diploma of Fine Art, Preston Institute of Technology, Melbourne, 1978

Description of Work

Ellen José's luminous turquoise canvases depict images, symbols and artefacts from the Torres Strait Islands; evoking the ghost of traditional lifestyles that have since ceased to exist, and celebrating the resilience of her people in the face of colonization.

José is a committed advocate for the recognition of the distinct identity and traditions of the people of the Torres Strait, and their particular response to European and other incursion. The islands' proximity to Melanesia and the Pacific islands, and the lucrative pearling and beche-de-mer industries of the early twentieth century, have long ensured a vibrant mix of cultures on the islands. Her luscious, melancholy images protest aspects of the intervention of other cultures into that of her forbears, while also understanding the long history of interaction and trade between the islanders and other peoples, such as the Macassans. Although personally ambivalent about the introduction of Christianity to the islands, a recurring theme in her work, she recognizes that it is a profound part of the lives of many who live on the islands today. Indeed, in some cases, objects originally representing the changes imposed with the coming of missionaries have been appropriated as symbols of indigenous identity and pride. She is currently Chairperson of the Victorian Wongai Torres Strait Islander Corporation, an association that promotes and maintains the cultural and political contributions made to this country by Torres Strait Islanders.


José has held around sixteen solo exhibitions since 1987, including ten with William Mora Galleries. Other recent exhibitions include:


Australian National Gallery, Canberra; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Australian War Memorial, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; National Museum of Australia, Canberra; State Library of Victoria, Melbourne; New South Wales State Library, Sydney; Flinders University, Adelaide; Tasmanian Museum of Art, Hobart; Queensland National Museum, Brisbane; Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Brisbane; Ballarat Fine Art Gallery; Global Arts Link, Ipswich; Cairns Regional Gallery; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission; City of Williamstown; Print Council of Australia Archives; Australian Print Workshop Archives, Melbourne; Robert Holmes à Court Collection, Perth; private collections in Australia and overseas

Selected bibliography

JOSÉ, Ellen, "Community - who are we?", Exploring Culture and Community for the 21st Century, Global Arts Link, Ipswich, 1999

MOSBY, Tom Byra Mixie, Ilan Pasin: This is our way, Torres Strait Art, ex cat, Cairns Regional Gallery, 1998

PALMER, Maudie and MARKS, Bryony (eds), Herring Island Environmental Sculpture Park, Melbourne, 1999

STEVENSON, Karen, "Creating together", Art Asia Pacific, number 21, 1999, pp 29-31


Address: 60 Tanner St
Richmond VIC 3121, Australia
Phone: +61 3 9429 1199
Contact: mora@moragalleries.com.au
Gallery Hours: Wednesday—Friday 10am–4pm
Or by appointment

Copyright © 2001–2021 William Mora Galleries