TAKING THE MYTH
26 APRIL - 28 May 2017
Tony Albert has collected hundreds of vintage retro ashtrays and tablecloths depicting Westernised stereotypes of Aboriginal culture, assembling them to create a vibrant and relentless photographic series that examines cultural appropriation and the erasure of Aboriginal racial and cultural identity.
First exhibited in Albert’s solo exhibition Unalienable (Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney, 3 September–1 October 2016), ‘Mid Century Modern’ is a photographic series that builds on his iconic ‘Ash on Me’ series.
“Albert collects and rearranges the objects to create critical frameworks ... he offers strategies for resistance that acknowledge the limited kind of images that are legible for Aboriginal recognition to a mainstream audience. Because these traditional images cannot simply be eliminated, Albert chooses to works with them and speak through them to find new ways of addressing the challenge of a more complete representation.”
Bridget R. Cooks, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Program in African American Studies in the book Tony Albert: It always seems impossible until it’s done, Conceptio Unlimited Publishing, 2011
Aunty Marlene Gilson is a Wathaurung (Wadawarrung) Elder living on country in Gordon, near Ballarat.
A visual artist who discovered painting later in life, Aunty Marlene’s paintings explore Aboriginal myth and stories of the goldfields. Her work is marked by a naive style which references her Indigenous and European ancestry. She is a descendant of King Billy, an Indigenous tribal leader of the Ballarat region at the time of the Eureka Stockade, and his wife Queen Mary.
Through her works, Aunty Marlene describes the stories of local significance. ‘Jones’ Circus at Eureka’ is part of a series of works including ‘Mount Warrenheip and Eureka Stockade’ (2013) and ‘Life on the Goldfields’ (2014).
Her works reveal the life of her ancestor King Billy, and she speculates on what Indigenous people might have felt at the time of Eureka.
Sue’s work seeks to create an uneasy tension between the unspoken interiority of Australian colonial society at the far edges of empire and the duplicity of colonisation as committed ‘in the interests of humankind’. Her intention is to draw the viewer in to consider more insidious subtexts such as disturbed ecologies and dispossession from colonial incursions. A combination of eld trips and archival research into her family past have fostered a deeper understanding of the inherited and ongoing legacies of colonial settler culture.
In Sue Kneebone’s image, pastoral owners from the early 1900s display their manly confidence as they pose with folded arms and crossed legs. These are gentlemen who have attempted to master nature in a semi-arid zone that experiences extreme heat and precarious rainfall.
Sue works to span the gaps of time, using bricolage and photo montage to enclose the past within the present.
This piece was first shown at South Australian School of Art Gallery as part of Sue’s PhD exhibition, Naturally Disturbed. It was included in Hannah Gadby’s Oz series, (episode 2) and was shown at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 2016.
PITCHA MAKIN FELLAS
The Pitcha Makin Fellas come together on a regular basis to write and paint in a shed in Ballarat. They first got together to discuss how they might be able to tell stories they knew about their country and community in a truthful and significant way. They all contribute to making the pictures; it is a true collaboration of ideas and methods where no-one is too precious about themselves and everyone is treated with respect. This group came together to nd a way to co-operatively create a strong and necessary presence for themselves, their community and their history in a place and time where Aboriginal people are still kept away from the centre of things.
Pitcha Makin Fellas is about good art and interesting stories; they talk about things like friendship, food, family, country, mystery, politics, football and nature. More than that, painting with the Pitcha Makin Fellas is a way to help encourage and develop fine, strong men who work constructively, creatively and carefully for community.
Traditional Aboriginal artwork in Victoria is concerned strongly with pattern and carving. Pitcha Makin Fellas have looked deeply into these traditional ways of making and use stamps to present those traditional methods in contemporary ways.
They also see the need to constantly remind everyone that Australia before colonisation was made up of 200-300 autonomous ‘nations’ or ‘language groups’. These nations of Indigenous Australia were, and are, as distinct from each other as the nations of Europe or Africa.
The painting, ‘More than One Golden Nation’, is a sparkling picture representing some of the 300 Nations that made this country and how they connected. It points out what is really important, what has a greater value than gold, what is truly ‘golden’.
It tells us that Aboriginal people were here before gold was discovered, were present on the gold elds and are still here, now. It reminds us of the wisdom, resilience and creative strength of Aboriginal people and their generosity of spirit.
Rodney Pople is no stranger to controversy. The selection of pieces from Rodney’s 2015 series, Golden Age, question the bastions of Australian art and the role it has played in developing the mythology of our heritage. Rodney examines the society of today through the lens of the iconic Heidelberg School, a group of painters who saw the Australian landscape and its people as benevolent and romantic. Rodney deliberately fills his pieces, which echo the work of the Heidelberg School, with a dark and bitter humour. For Rodney, violence is always just beneath the surface. He cuts through the veneer of the niceties of the art of the Australian masters, and reminds us of who we really are.
Rodney completed a diploma in Fine Arts at the University of Tasmania in 1974 and later attended the Slade School of Art in London in 1978 and the New York Studio School in 1979 as a postgraduate. Rodney has held solo exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania and China. His work has been included in group exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Rodney has taught at several institutions including the University of Tasmania in 1984 and the Victorian College of the Arts in 1990. Rodney was artist in residence at the Moira Dyring Studio, Cite Interationales Paris through the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1990. He was awarded the Lake Macquarie Art Prize in 1988, the Fisher’s Ghost Prize in 1994 and a National Art School travel grant in 1999. Rodney won the Glover Prize in 2012 with a controversial portrait of Port Arthur and the Paddington Art Prize in 2016. His work is held by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; Artbank, Sydney; several regional and university galleries and internationally by MOMA, New York.
LIMITED WORKS BY RODNEY POPLE IN STOCKROOM
Joan Ross works across a range of mediums including drawing, painting, installation, photography, sculpture and video. Her bold and experimental practice investigates the legacy of colonialism in Australia, particularly in regard to its e ect on Indigenous Australians.
Joan Ross fuses the historical with the contemporary. She uses the symbols and the desires of our colonial history, and uses them to firmly remind us of colonialism’s ongoing presence and effects.
Joan’s series of works in this exhibition take the complex power relations between indigenous and colonial, country and capital, luck and exploitation to new levels. Joan uses a signature high-vis lurid yellow/green as a metaphor for colonisation. It is a colour that is alien to the landscape.
This series of works belongs to a collection titled Colonial Grab. They are seeking to detail the fanatical pride Australians have in their unique ora and fauna, and yet we have an equally enthusiastic desire to see nature sacrificed as a saleable resource for profit.
Jacqui Stockdale’s compelling photographic portraits re ect her ongoing fascination with history, mythology and identity. Her images playfully mimic the genre of exotic postcards and historical paintings where a fanciful subject is positioned within a make–believe landscape. Dressed in costumes and masks, Stockdale’s characters are layered with cultural and historical references. Stockdale’s hand-painted landscapes form the backdrops to the works. The striking combination of photography and painting in a single image is a recurring element in Stockdale’s practice and reflects her capacity to embrace and work skillfully across a range of mediums.
‘The Boho’ draws on the nineteenth century Australian folk narrative surrounding the popular larrikin and anti-hero Ned Kelly. They combine Jacqui’s fascination with Australian colonial folklore, masquerade and talisman. The life size portraits depict living subjects - including Paul Kelly and Missy Higgins, in front of iconic ‘Kelly country’ landscapes, such as Stringybark Creek and Power’s Lookout in the King Valley, rural Victoria. At once playful and deadly serious Stockdale’s work is bold and intelligent, seamlessly balancing risk and restraint.
“Human figuration, and the notion of the portrait have been key components in my practice to date,” explained Jacqui. “I create highly staged, stylised and sometimes surreal photographic portraits, paintings and collage, which have a visually rich and elaborate aesthetic. These works deal with the portrait as an indicator of cultural identity, gender, history and relationship to nature; and human rituals of celebration, spirituality and death.”