Posts Tagged ‘Ricky Maynard

14
Aug
22

Review: ‘WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture’ at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th March – 21st August 2022

 

Entrance of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Entrance of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The black and white show

This is a challenging and stimulating exhibition at NGV Australia, Federation Square that attempts to answer the question: “who are you” when coming to terms with what it is to be an Australian.

WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture is one of the most comprehensive explorations of portraiture ever mounted in Australia and the first exhibition to bring together the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra… [it] considers portraiture in Australia across time and media, as well as the role of the portraiture genre in the development of a sense of Australian national identity… The exhibition also questions what actually constitutes portraiture by examining the surprising and sometimes unconventional ways of representing likeness… Presented across five thematic sections, the exhibition raises challenging and provocative questions about who we are and how we view others – historically, today and into the future…

The exhibition opens by considering the connection between people and place, reflecting on the relationship between artists, sitters and the environment, as well as the personification of the natural world… A further section explores the artistic tradition of the self-portrait and portraits of artists, as well as how this convention has been subverted or challenged by contemporary artists working today… Ideas of intimacy and alienation are juxtaposed through images of family and community presented alongside those of vulnerability and isolation… The exhibition also explores portraiture’s surprising capacity to reveal the inner worlds and mindsets of both the sitter and the artist… The final section of the exhibition interrogates Australian icons, identities and how we construct them.” (Press release)

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This is an ambitious agenda for several large exhibitions, let alone cram so many ideas into one exhibition. And in the end the central question “who are you” is unknowable, unanswerable in any definitive way… for it all depends on your ancestry, and from what point of view you are looking and in what context – and these conditions can change from minute to minute, day to day, and era to era. Identity is always partially fixed and fluid at one and the same time. It is always a construction, a work in progress, governed by social and cultural relations.

“Identity is formed by social processes. Once crystallized, it is maintained, modified, or even reshaped by social relations. The social processes involved in both the formation and the maintenance of identity are determined by the social structure. Conversely, the identities produced by the interplay of the organism, individual consciousness and social structure react upon the given social structure, maintaining it, modifying it, or even reshaping it.”1

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Identity construction is a self-referential system where identities are produced out of social systems. They (identities) then act upon those very systems to alter them, and then those systems re-act again forming anew, an ever changing identity. “The task of identity formation is to develop a stable, coherent picture of oneself that includes an integration of one’s past and present experiences and a sense of where one is headed in the future.”2 But that identity formation, while seeking to be stable, is both multiple and contestatory. It is through those contests that a future sense of self can challenge hegemonic power differentials. As Judith Butler observes,

“Thus every insistence on identity must at some point lead to a taking stock of the constitutive exclusions that reconsolidate hegemonic power differentials, exclusions that each articulation was forced to make in order to proceed. This critical reflection will be important in order not to replicate at the level of identity politics the very exclusionary moves that initiated the turn to specific identities in the first place … It will be a matter of tracing the ways in which identification is implicated in what it excludes, and to follow the lines of that implication for the map of future community that it might yield.”3

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In other words, learn from the mistakes of the past and don’t let them repeat themselves in future identities! Do not exclude others in order to reconsolidate the hegemonic status quo. But people always form identities based on the “norm” – how can you change that? As A. David Napier states, “We rely, sometimes almost exclusively it seems, upon the construction and reconstruction of an evolutionary(?) sequence of events that simultaneously excludes outsiders and provides some basis for justifying our social rules and actions. Thus, we minimize diversity by reflecting on who we are, by achieving, that is, a self-conscious state that is not only accepted but considered desirable…”4

Critical reflection is thus so important in challenging who we are, both individually and collectively. In this sense, an exhibition like WHO ARE YOU is important in helping to reshape social relations, helping to challenge hegemonic power differentials, which in turn affects our personal identity construction by reflecting on who we are and changing our point of view, so that we become more informed, and more empathetic, towards different cultures and different people. So that we do not exclude other people and other points of view.

But all is not roses and light in this exhibition with regard to exclusion.

Whilst a lot of people acknowledge and empathise with First Nations people we can have NO IDEA of the ongoing pain and hurt centuries of invasion, disenfranchisement, genocide, massacres, Stolen Generation, lack of health care, massive incarceration, suicide rates and shorter life expectancy, land loss, cultural loss that the violence of the white Anglo gaze has inflicted on the oldest living culture on Earth. While there are moves afoot (as there have been for years) for Aboriginal constitutional recognition through a Voice to Parliament, a permanent body representing First Nations people that would advise government on Indigenous policy; and a treaty that would help secure sovereignty and self-determination, enabling First Nations people make their own decisions and control their own lives, economy and land, free from the effects of changing governments – personally I believe until there is a complete acknowledgement of the pain invasion has caused Aboriginal people by the whole of Australia, nothing will ever change.

Having said that, contemporary Australia is now the most multicultural country it as ever been. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021 Census, 27.6 per cent of the population were born overseas and the top 5 countries of birth (excluding Australia) were, in order, England, India, China, New Zealand and the Philippines.5 In Australia, 812,000 people identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in the 2021 Census of Population and Housing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented 3.2% of the population.6

It is interesting to note that when looking through the art works in this exhibition – nearly all of which can be seen in this posting – how much of it is (historical) white art and how much of it is contemporary Aboriginal art, with a sop being made to art made by, or mentioning, other people including Chinese, Afghan, Muslim and Sudanese. Chinese people have been living in Australia for centuries, Afghan people similarly. Greek and Italian people arrived in droves in the 1950s-1960s, Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s, Sudanese, Indian and Sri Lankan people in the late 20th century. More (historical and contemporary) work from these people was needed in this exhibition because they inform the construction of modern Australian identities.

Obviously the inclusion of so much contemporary Aboriginal work is a deliberate curatorial decision, but its disproportionate representation in this exhibition makes it feel like a “catch all”. Why do the curators feel the need to include so much Indigenous work? Is that how they truly see Australian identity? Also, does the inclusion of this art mean it is the best contemporary art that is available in Australia at the moment, or does its inclusion simply exclude other voices from different nationalities and ethnic and religious backgrounds that are just as important in the construction of contemporary Australian identities? While there is no denying the historical significance of invasion there needs to be a balance in such representation, especially in an exhibition purporting to investigate “who are you” over a broad range of references. As it stands the inclusion of so much Indigenous work feels like an agenda, a set point of departure, perhaps even an apologia for white guilt. As the critic John McDonald noted recently, we are living “at a time when museums and commercial galleries have gone completely gaga for such [that is, Aboriginal] work.”

Personally, I would have liked to have seen a greater range of voices expressing themselves in this exhibition. It struck me that the inclusion of so much (historical) white art and so much contemporary Aboriginal art formed a rather limited framework in which to examine “who are you”. Rather, I would have liked a more balanced representation through art of the many voices that contribute to the formation of evolving Australian identities, which ultimately could lead to a greater insight into the construction of our own self-portrait. That is the truly important aspect of any navel gazing exercise.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,450

 

  1. Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Allen Lane, London, 1967, p. 194.
  2. Erickson, E. Identity: Youth in Crisis. Norton, New York, 1968
  3. Judith Butler. Bodies That Matter. Routledge, New York, 1993, pp. 118-119
  4. A. David Napier. Foreign Bodies: Performance Art, and Symbolic Anthropology. University of California press, Berkeley, 1992, p.143.
  5. “Cultural diversity: Census” 2021 on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website 28/06/2022 [Online] Cited 12/08/2022
  6. “Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population summary” 2021 on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website 28/06/2022 [Online] Cited 12/08/2022

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. All installation images © Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing from left to right, Polixeni Papapetrou’s Magma Man (2012, below); Karla Dickens’ Mrs Woods and ‘Ere (2013, below); and Kaylene Whiskey’s Seven Sisters Song (2021, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018) 'Magma Man' 2012

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Magma Man
2012
From the series The Ghillies 2013
Inkjet print
120.0 x 120.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013
© Polixeni Papapetrou/Administered by VISCOPY, Sydney
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou’s series The Ghillies shows the artist’s son wearing extreme camouflage costumes that are used by the defence forces to blend in with their environment. The photographs reflect on the passing of childhood, and the journey out of a maternally centred world into a wider existence. Papapetrou proposes that this is a significant moment for many young men as they seek to separate themselves from their mothers, and assume the costumes and identities of masculine stereotypes, often hiding themselves in the process. Papapetrou photographed her children fro most of her career, and explored a range of stereotypes that surround childhood. These works examine the placement of children and adolescents in a society which is determined and defined by adults.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Karla Dickens (Australian / Wiradjuri, b. 1967) 'Mrs Woods and 'Ere' 2013

 

Karla Dickens (Australian / Wiradjuri, b. 1967)
Mrs Woods and ‘Ere
2013
Inkjet print on paper, ed. 3/10
Image: 66.0 x 100.cm
Sheet: 76.5 x 110.0 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2019
© Karla Dickens/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

 

Tjayanka Woods (c. 1935-2014) was a senior Pitjantjatjara artist, born near Kalaya Pirti (Emu Water) near Mimili and Wataru, South Australia. She was a cultural custodian, leader and held significant knowledges regarding cultural law and medicine. As an artist, Woods often referred to the Kungkarrangkalpa Tjurkurpa (Seven Sisters) within her artworks. The Kungkarrangkalpa Tjurkurpa is an epic and ancient creation story revolving around the start cluster, also known as Pleiades. In 2013, Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens, spent several weeks with Woods and other senior Pitjantjatjara artists research the creation story. During her time in Pitjantjatjara Country, Dickens photographed Woods as the aware and intelligent cultural leader she was, with dignity and strength.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Kaylene Whiskey (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1976) 'Seven Sisters Song' 2021

 

Kaylene Whiskey (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1976)
Seven Sisters Song
2021
Enamel paint on road sign
120.0 x 180.0cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2021
© Kaylene Whiskey. Courtesy of the artist, Iwantja Arts and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Kaylene Whiskey seamlessly combines references to daily life in Indulkana with popular culture. Painted on an old road sign, Seven Sisters Song celebrates Whiskey’s witty sense of humour and personal reflection of Kungkarangkalpa Tjukurpa, the Seven Sisters creation story. Imbued within the work themes of sisterhood and kinship bonds, Whiskey brings together two vastly different worlds. Strong female characters including Wonder Woman, Whoopi Goldberg and Dolly Parton are situated within a desert landscape and seen interacting with native plants and wildlife, including traditional Anangu activities like hunting, collecting bush tucker, and cultivating mingkulpa (a native tobacco plant).

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Johannes Heyer (Australian, 1872-1945) 'William Barak at work on the drawing 'Ceremony' at Coranderrk' 1902

 

Johannes Heyer (Australian, 1872-1945)
William Barak at work on the drawing ‘Ceremony’ at Coranderrk
1902
Gelatin silver photograph, sepia toned on paper
8.7 x 8.7cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with the assistance of the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society 2000

 

 

Wurundjeri artist and ngurungaeta (Head Man) William Barak was an important cultural leader, diplomat and activist. Barak lived near Coranderrk Aboriginal Station, near Healesville, from 1863 until 1903, becoming an influential spokesman for the rights of his people and an informant on Wurundjeri cultural lore. The people of Coranderrk, however, were officially forbidden from observing traditional practices, so Barak began recording them in drawings, often using ochre and charcoals to depict ceremonies and aspects of Wurundjeri culture before colonisation. His artworks are significant expressions of cultural practice, and he is regarded as an important figure int he history of Indigenous Australian art.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Beruk (William Barak) (1824-1903), an elder of the Wurundjeri clan of the Woi-worung, was the most famous Aboriginal person in Victoria in the 1890s. After attending the Reverend George Langhorne’s mission school, Barak joined the Native Police in 1844 and remained there until at least 1851. From 1863 until his death he lived at the government reserve at Coranderrk, at a site near the Yarra River in Victoria. The history of the reserve is one of official interference and mismanagement, and Barak played a significant part in representing the wishes of his community to the government. In the decade of the 1880s he made many paintings and artefacts, mostly of Aboriginal ceremonial subjects.

 

Beruk (1824-1903), artist, activist, leader and educator, was a Wurundjeri man of the Woiwurrung people, one of the five Kulin Nations whose Country encompasses Narrm (Melbourne). It is said that Beruk was present at the signing of the so-called treaty with which John Batman reckoned he’d acquired 240,000 hectares of Wurundjeri land in 1835. In reality, the men with whom Batman negotiated, including one of Beruk’s uncles, had not transferred ownership, but merely given Batman permission to stay temporarily. Beruk was given the name William Barak (a European mispronunciation) in 1844 when he joined the Native Police. He was among the group of people from across Victoria who were the first to join the settlement at Coranderrk, near Healesville, established by the Aboriginal Protection Board in 1863 following several years of petitioning by community leaders. Beruk emerged as a leader at Coranderrk, which developed into a self-sufficient agricultural settlement. Following the passing of his cousin Simon Wonga in 1874, Beruk became Ngurungaeta (head man) of the Wurundjeri people. During the same period, when European pastoral interests started lobbying for Coranderrk to be broken up and sold off, Beruk led the campaign to prevent the settlement’s closure. It was gazetted as a ‘permanent reservation’ in 1881.

By this time, Beruk was recognised as a leader of his people and as a revered custodian of language and cultural knowledge. As the people at Coranderrk were officially forbidden from observing their traditional ceremonies, including corroborees, Beruk began recording his knowledge in drawings, utilising introduced methods and materials including paper, cardboard, and watercolour to preserve and communicate important stories and aspects of culture and spirituality. On the one hand, his drawings and the artefacts he made functioned as a commodity and were sold as souvenirs to increasing numbers of tourists. Museums in Europe began acquiring examples of his work in the late nineteenth century. On the other hand, and more significantly, Beruk’s drawings represent a profound assertion of pride in his heritage and identity, and the survival of a rich and complex culture in the face of concerted attempts to diminish it. As Wurundjeri elder and Beruk’s great-great niece Aunty Joy Wandin Murphy says: “We believe that what he wanted was for people to remember those ceremonies, so that if he painted them … then people would always know about the ceremonies on Coranderrk and of Wurundjeri people.”

This photograph of Beruk was taken by Johannes Heyer, a Presbyterian clergyman called to the parish of Yarra Glen and Healesville in 1900. The drawing that Beruk is shown working on in the photograph is now in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

Anonymous text. “William Barak at work on the drawing ‘Ceremony’ at Coranderrk,” on the National Portrait Gallery website Nd [Online] Cited 18/06/2022

 

David Moore (Australia 1927-2003) 'Migrants arriving in Sydney' 1966

 

David Moore (Australia 1927-2003)
Migrants arriving in Sydney
1966
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1961

 

 

WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture is the first exhibition to comprehensively bring together the rich portrait holdings of both the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. Revealing the artistic synergies and contrasts between the two institutions’ collections, this co-curated exhibition considers portraiture in Australia across time and media.

Through the examination of diverse and sometimes unconventional ways of representing likeness, WHO ARE YOU will question what actually constitutes portraiture – historically, today and into the future. Examples of some of the more abstract notions of portraits in the exhibition include John Nixon’s Self-portrait, (1990), and Boris Cipusev’s typographic portrait of Jeff from The Wiggles, titled Jeff the wiggle, 2009-2013. Polixeni Papapetrou’s Magma man, 2013, a photograph that merges sitter and landscape until the two are almost indecipherable, and Shirley Purdie’s multi-panelled evocation of biography and Country, Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe, 2018, further challenge the conventions of the genre and touch upon the intimate connection between artist, sitter and land. NGV Collection highlights include new acquisitions: Kaylene Whiskey’s Seven Sisters Song, 2021 – a playful take on portraiture by a living artist and Joy Hester’s Pauline McCarthy,1945, a rare example of Hester producing a portrait in oil.

WHO ARE YOU is the largest exhibition of Australian portraiture ever mounted by either the NGV or NPG, and is the first time the two galleries have worked collaboratively on such a large-scale project.

Text from the NGV International website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing Lloyd Rees' 'Portrait of some rocks' 1948

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing Lloyd Rees’ Portrait of some rocks (1948, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lloyd Rees. 'Portrait of some rocks' 1948

 

Lloyd Rees (Australian, 1895-1988)
Portrait of some rocks
1948
Oil on canvas
76.6 x 102.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1948
© Lloyd Rees/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

 

One of Australia’s leading landscape artists of the mid-twentieth century, Lloyd Rees studied at Brisbane Technical College before moving to Sydney in 1917, where he worked as a commercial illustrator. In the early 1930s he concentrated solely on drawing, particularly the rocky landscapes around Sydney, but by the late 1930s he began painting in an increasingly romantic manner. Rocks were a meaningful subject for Rees because they evoked permanency and represented the constitution of the earth. Rees humanises his subject matter by using the word ‘portrait’ in the title, which suggests the rocks have shifted from inorganic to animate objects.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at right, Marshall Claxton’s An emigrant’s thoughts of home (1859, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at right, Marshall Claxton’s An emigrant’s thoughts of home (1859, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Marshall Claxton (English, 1813-1881, worked in Australia 1850-1854) 'An emigrant's thoughts of home' 1859

 

Marshall Claxton (English, 1813-1881, worked in Australia 1850-1854)
An emigrant’s thoughts of home
1859
Oil on cardboard
60.7 × 47.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by the National Gallery Women’s Association, 1974

 

 

Immigration underlies the European history of Australia. Between 1815 and 1840, more than 58,000 people, predominately from the British Isles, came to Australia in search of a better life. Women migrants were also assisted to curb a gender imbalance in the colonies, to work as domestic servants and to foster marriages and childbirth.

Text from the National Gallery of Victoria website

 

Immigration is central to the history of Australia. The wistful tilt of this young woman’s head and her thoughtful expression are powerful symbols of the intense nostalgia and fear of the unknown experienced by those in search of a new homeland. Despite its apparent simplicity and sentimentality, the painting captures the issues of poverty, deprivation and emigration that people, especially women, faced in the middle decades of the nineteenth century.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Peter Drew (Australian, b. 1983) 'Monga Khan 1916' 2016, printed 2019

 

Peter Drew (Australian, b. 1983)
Monga Khan 1916
2016, printed 2019
From the Aussie series 2016
Brush and ink on screenprint
Image: 114.5 x 80.5cm
Sheet: 117.5 x 83.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Supporters of Prints and Drawings, 2020
© Peter Drew

 

 

Monga Khan was a hawker, and one of the thousands of people who applied for an exemption to the White Australia Policy, a law which came into effect in 1901. Exemptions were considered for cameleers, hawkers and other traders who were considered essential workers. Drew created this poster and others in the Aussie series using photographs from the National Archives of Australia, and pasted them around Australia’s cities.

He explains: ‘When you address the public through the street you’re entering into a tradition that emphasises our fundamental freedom of expression, over the value of property. I enjoy examining our collective identities and my aim is always to emphasise the connections that bind us, rather than the fractures that divide us’.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Maree Clarke’s Walert – gum barerarerungar (2020-2021, below); and at right, Uta Uta Tjangala’s Ngurrapalangu (1989, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Uta Uta Tjangala (Australian / Puntupi, c. 1926-1990) 'Ngurrapalangu' 1989 (installation view)

 

Uta Uta Tjangala (Australian / Puntupi, c. 1926-1990)
Ngurrapalangu (installation view)
1989
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through the NGV Foundation by Elizabeth and Colin Laverty, Governors, 2001
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Uta Uta Tjangala forged a new art form at Papunya during 1971-1972 with startling works such as this one. Working for the first time on a discarded scrap of composition board, artists at Papunya rendered visible and permanent ephemeral designs, formerly made only for use in closed and secret ceremonial contexts on bodies, objects or the ground. The painted designs are closely connected to the artist’s cultural identity, his understanding of Country, and of sacred men’s business, unknowable to uninitiated members of the community.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Maree Clarke (Australian / Mutti Mutti/Wamba Wamba/Yorta Yorta/Boonwurrung, b. 1961) 'Walert – gum barerarerungar: Tipperary, Ireland Dunstable, Britain Yorta Yorta Trawlwoolway Boonwurrung, Muttu Mutti, Wamba Wamba' 2020-2021 (installation view)

 

Maree Clarke (Australian / Mutti Mutti/Wamba Wamba/Yorta Yorta/Boonwurrung, b. 1961)
Walert – gum barerarerungar: Tipperary, Ireland Dunstable, Britain Yorta Yorta Trawlwoolway Boonwurrung, Muttu Mutti, Wamba Wamba (installation view)
2020-2021
Possum pelts
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchase, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2021
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Maree Clarke is recognised as one of the most respected possum skin cloak makers and teachers in the world. This work represents the first time Clarke produced a cloak to represent her own ancestral identity. Depicted on the cloak are seven important places, which her ancestors come from: Yorta Yorta Country, Trawlwoolway Country, Boonwurrung Country, Muttu Mutti Country and Wamba Wamba Country, as well as Tiperrary in Ideland, and Dunstable in Britain. Clarke has used a rare green ochre to represent her European ancestors. Together, these seven ancestral sites of significance inform Clarke’s identity.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Maree Clarke (Australian / Mutti Mutti/Wamba Wamba/Yorta Yorta/Boonwurrung, b. 1961) 'Walert – gum barerarerungar: Tipperary, Ireland Dunstable, Britain Yorta Yorta Trawlwoolway Boonwurrung, Muttu Mutti, Wamba Wamba' 2020-2021 (installation view detail)

 

Maree Clarke (Australian / Mutti Mutti/Wamba Wamba/Yorta Yorta/Boonwurrung, b. 1961)
Walert – gum barerarerungar: Tipperary, Ireland Dunstable, Britain Yorta Yorta Trawlwoolway Boonwurrung, Muttu Mutti, Wamba Wamba (installation view detail)
2020-2021
Possum pelts
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchase, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2021
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Portraiture

In its uniting of artist and sitter, the self-portrait is an intriguing facet of portraiture. The self-reflection is a format that appears to grant the viewer the assurance of revelation and intimate access to the artist’s psyche. However, what the artist intends to communicate to their audience through portraiture is highly varied, and the message each artist conveys is as individual as the artist themselves. Additionally, there is room for the viewer to question how the artist has chosen to depict their image.

Self-portraiture is a diverse genre: there are myriad ways an artist can present themselves. A typical way for the artist to portray themselves is in the role of ‘the artist’, including in the work a visual clue to their profession – for instance holding a brush or paint palette – or showing themselves at work in the studio. As part of an investigation of self, these representations can also communicate the complexities of status and gender. This selection of works explores what the artists intend to reveal or exclude about themselves through their self-representations, considering he environment in which the artists are placed, and the props and imagery they choose to include in the works.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Pamela See (Australian, b. 1979) 'Making Chinese Shadows (sixteen silhouette portraits)' 2018 (installation view)

 

Pamela See (Australian, b. 1979)
Making Chinese Shadows (sixteen silhouette portraits) (installation view)
2018
Twelve of sixteen papercut silhouette drawings
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Brisbane-born Pamela See (Xue Mei-Ling) studied at the Queensland College of Art from 1997 to 1999. She began papercutting during a period when she was without access to a studio, and was subsequently awarded grants that enabled her to study the technique in several centres throughout China. Her method and style resemble Foshan papercutting, which is widely practices in the home of her maternal grandparents, in Guangdong province. These papercuts are from a series investigating the lives of Chinese-Australians who flourished prior to the introduction of the White Australia policy. The works connect and juxtapose European silhouette portraiture and Chinese papercutting traditions, exploring the notion that a silhouette profile provides a means of ‘measuring’ a sitter’s character with the totemic and floral symbols evoking personal narratives, identity and professions.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Pamela See (Australian, b. 1979) 'Making Chinese Shadows (sixteen silhouette portraits)' 2018 (installation view detail)

 

Pamela See (Australian, b. 1979)
Making Chinese Shadows (sixteen silhouette portraits) (installation view detail)
2018
Twelve of sixteen papercut silhouette drawings
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Various unknown photographers (Australian) William and Martha Mary Robertson and their children 1860s-1870s (installation view)

Various unknown photographers (Australian) William and Martha Mary Robertson and their children 1860s-1870s (installation view)

Various unknown photographers (Australian) William and Martha Mary Robertson and their children 1860s-1870s (installation view)

 

Various unknown photographers (Australian)
William and Martha Mary Robertson and their children (installation views)
1860s-1870s
Eight cartes de visite, hand-coloured, contained in red leather presentation case
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Malcolm Robertson in memory of William Thomas Robertson 2018
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

LIU Xiao Xian (Australian born China, b. 1963) 'My other lives, #7' 2000

 

LIU Xiao Xian (Australian born China, b. 1963)
My other lives, #7
2000
From the My other lives series 2000
Type C photograph
102.0 × 145.2cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2002
© LIU Xiao Xian

 

 

Popular in nineteenth-century Australia, stereographs gave the illusion of three dimensions when placed in a handheld viewer. In this work, Liu Xiao Xian enlarges a typical example of this historical form of photographic portraiture and replaces the sitter’s face with his own on one side. Through this double-take, and the playful invitation to imagine an ‘other life’ for this sitter, this work is both a subtle self-portrait and a pointed reminder of the invisibility of the Chinese migrant experience in mainstream conceptions of Australian history and identity.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

A. D. Colquhoun (Australian, 1894-1983) 'Artist and sitter' c. 1938 (installation view)

 

A. D. Colquhoun (Australian, 1894-1983)
Artist and sitter (installation view)
c. 1938
Oil on canvas
122.0 × 94.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1940
© Dr Quentin Noel Porter
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

A. D. Colquhoun (Australian, 1894-1983) 'Artist and sitter' c. 1938

 

A. D. Colquhoun (Australian, 1894-1983)
Artist and sitter
c. 1938
Oil on canvas
122.0 × 94.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1940
© Dr Quentin Noel Porter

 

 

Brush in hand, there is no mistaking A. D. Colquhoun’s occupation or the studio setting. The young, glamorous model is an essential part of this carefully orchestrated self-portrayal. By also including his painting of the model on the easel, Colquhoun presents himself in the company of not one, but two women whose presence asserts his own dominant masculinity. The artist’s gaze meets the viewer, placing them as the subject of the painter’s attention, creating a complex network of visual relationships between the artist, model and viewer.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at right, Shirley Purdie’s Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe (2018, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Shirley Purdie (Australian / Gija, b. 1947) 'Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe' 2018 (installation view)

 

Shirley Purdie (Australian / Gija, b. 1947)
Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe (installation view)
2018
Natural ochre and pigments on canvas (36 parts)
Each: 45.0 x 45.0cm
Overall: 225.0 x 525.0cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2019
© Shirley Purdie/Copyright Agency, 2022
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Shirley Purdie (b. 1947) is a senior Gija artist at the Warmun Art Centre who has been painting for more than twenty years. Purdie has lived on her Country, Western Australia’s East Kimberley, all her life. Inspired by senior Warmun artists, including her late mother, Madigan Thomas, she began to paint sites and narratives associated with her Country in the early 1990s. A prominent leader in the Warmun community, her cultural knowledge and artistic skill allow her to pass on Gija stories and language to the younger generations.

In 2018, Purdie was selected to contribute to the National Portrait Gallery’s 20th anniversary exhibition, So Fine: Contemporary Women Artists Make Australian History. Composed of 36 paintings, Purdie’s self-portrait Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngaginbe is an eloquent and stunning visualisation of personal history, identity and connection to Country. ‘It’s good to learn from old people. They keep saying when you paint you can remember that Country, just like to take a photo … When the old people die, young people can read the stories from the paintings. They can learn from the paintings and maybe they want to start painting too.’ Using richly textured ochres collected on her Country, Purdie’s work is a kaleidoscope of traditional Gija stories and Ngarranggarni passed down to her.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Shirley Purdie is senior Gija woman and a prominent leader within the Warmup Community in Western Australia’s East Kimberley. Combining her cultural knowledge with her art, Purdie creates visual depictions of Gija life and culture. Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe, meaning ‘from my women’, is informed by Aboriginal ways of seeing, knowing and understanding oneself within the world. Each of the thirty-six panels shares a story about personal history, identity and Country to produce a non-representational self-portrait of the artist and her ongoing connection to women’s stories. By drawing on the significant women in her life, their relationships and histories, Purdie describes herself through these cultural connections and stories.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing Sam Jink’s Divide (Self portrait) (2011, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sam Jinks (Australian, b. 1973) 'Divide (Self portrait)' 2011 (installation view)

Sam Jinks (Australian, b. 1973) 'Divide (Self portrait)' 2011 (installation view)

 

Sam Jinks (Australian, b. 1973)
Divide (Self portrait) (installation views)
2011
Silicone, resin, horse hair
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2015
© Sam Jinks
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Sam Jinks developed a talent for drawing and constructing his ideas alongside his father, a Melbourne cabinetmaker. Jinks worked as an illustrator before turning to sculpture. He worked in film and television special effects before becoming a fabricator for artist Patricia Piccinini. For the last ten years he has sculpted independently, working in silicone, fibreglass, resin and hair – human, animal and synthetic.

 

Max Martin (Australian, 1889-1965) 'Portrait group' 1922

 

Max Martin (Australian, 1889-1965)
Portrait group
1922
Oil on canvas
152.8 x 102.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE, Honorary Life Benefactor, 1995
© Veronica Martin

 

Max Martin (Australian, 1889-1965) 'Portrait group' 1922 (installation view detail)

 

Max Martin (Australian, 1889-1965)
Portrait group (installation view detail)
1922
Oil on canvas
152.8 x 102.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE, Honorary Life Benefactor, 1995
© Veronica Martin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Herbert Badham (Australian, 1899-1961) 'Self portrait with glove' 1939 (installation view)

 

Herbert Badham (Australian, 1899-1961)
Self portrait with glove (installation view)
1939
Oil on canvas board
Frame: 44.4 x 40.7cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 1999
© Estate of Herbert Badham
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Herbert Badham was an artist, writer and teacher who specialised in figures, urban life and beach scenes. Having studied for many years at the Julian Ashton School in the 1920s and 1930s, he produced a body of painting that typified the gentle, realist aspect of Sydney modernism of the prewar years. Head of the intermediate art department at East Sydney Tech from 1938 to 1961, he published the populist Study of Australian Art in 1949, and A Gallery of Australian Art in 1954. Badham’s work underwent a minor revival in the late 1980s, with a retrospective show held in Wollongong and Sydney, and three of his urban scenes were selected for the National Gallery’s Federation exhibition of 2001. Arguably the most interesting of several self-portraits of the artist, this painting was featured on the cover of the catalogue of the 1987 retrospective.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Herbert Badham (Australian, 1899-1961) 'Self portrait with glove' 1939

 

Herbert Badham (Australian, 1899-1961)
Self portrait with glove
1939
Oil on canvas board
Frame: 44.4 x 40.7cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 1999
© Estate of Herbert Badham

 

Janet Dawson (Australian, b. 1935) 'Self Portrait' Between 1951 and 1953

 

Janet Dawson (Australian, b. 1935)
Self Portrait
Between 1951 and 1953
oil on cardboard
Frame: 57.0 x 47.5cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2000
© Janet Dawson/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

 

Janet Dawson (b. 1935) is best known for her contribution to abstract art in Australia. Following her family’s relocation from Forbes to Melbourne in the early 1940s, Dawson attended the private art school run by Harold Septimus Power. In 1951, aged sixteen, she enrolled at the National Gallery School and attended night classes with Sir William Dargie. Five years later, Dawson won a National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship and went to London, where she studied at the Slade School and the Central School. Returning to Melbourne in 1961, she held her first solo exhibition the same year and in 1963 set up an art school and workshop. Dawson was one of only three women included in the influential exhibition of Australian abstraction, The Field, at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1968. Her work is represented in all major public collections in Australia, and has been the subject of exhibitions at the NGV and the National Gallery of Australia.

Outside of her lyrical abstract work, Dawson always practised portraiture and won the Archibald Prize in 1973 with a portrait of her husband, the late writer, actor and playwright Michael Boddy. Painted during an evening class at the National Gallery School, this self portrait shows Dawson wearing an artist’s work shirt over her elegant day clothes, gazing confidently at the viewer.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Lina Bryans’ The babe is wise (1940, below); at middle, Janet Cumbrae Stewart’s Portrait of Jessie C. A. Traill (1920, below); and at right, Evelyn Chapman’s Self portrait (1911, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lina Bryans (Australian born Germany, 1909-2000) 'The babe is wise' 1940 (installation view)

 

Lina Bryans (Australian born Germany, 1909-2000)
The babe is wise (installation view)
1940
Oil on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Miss Jean Campbell, 1962
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Lina Bryans was an important part of the modern movement and a member of literary and artistic circles in Melbourne during the late 1930s and 1940s. Her vibrant paintings are characterised by bold brushwork and the expressive use of colour. In 1937, Bryans began painting portraits of her friends. Her most famous work, The babe is wise, is a portrait of the writer Jean Campbell, who had recently published a novel of the same name.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Lina Bryans (Australian born Germany, 1909-2000) 'The babe is wise' 1940

 

Lina Bryans (Australian born Germany, 1909-2000)
The babe is wise
1940
Oil on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Miss Jean Campbell, 1962

 

Janet Cumbrae Stewart (Australian, 1883-1960) 'Portrait of Jessie C. A. Traill' 1920

 

Janet Cumbrae Stewart (Australian, 1883-1960)
Portrait of Jessie C. A. Traill
1920
Pastel
Image and sheet: 55.5 × 45.4cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Jessie Traill, 1961
© Courtesy of the copyright holder

 

 

Chiefly known for her use of pastel, Janet Cumbrae Stewart devoted the most significant part of her career to producing sensuous studies of the female nude and portraits of women. Her portrait of fellow artist Jessie Traill shows Traill in the dress uniform of a Queen Alexandra Imperial Nurse. Nursing was one of the few options open to women wanting to serve in the First World War. Traill, who was living in France, volunteered and was stationed in Rouen in Northern France for three and a half years. Cumbrae Stewart and Traill were friends, both having grown up in Brighton, Victoria, and attended the National Gallery School alongside one another in the early 1900s.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Evelyn Chapman (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Self portrait' 1911 (installation view)

 

Evelyn Chapman (Australian, 1888-1961)
Self portrait (installation view)
1911
Oil on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Pamela Thalben-Ball 2007
© Estate of Evelyn Chapman
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 Evelyn Chapman (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Self portrait' 1911

 

Evelyn Chapman (Australian, 1888-1961)
Self portrait
1911
Oil on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Pamela Thalben-Ball 2007
© Estate of Evelyn Chapman

 

 

Evelyn Chapman, artist, studied with Antonio Dattilo Rubbo in Sydney and travelled overseas to paint in Paris, where she exhibited at the Salon. A few weeks after the end of World War 1 she took up the opportunity to visit the battlefields of France with her father, who was attached to the New Zealand War Graves Commission. Thus, she became the first Australian female artist to depict the devastated battlefields, towns and churches of the western front. Chapman remained overseas with her father, an organist who played in Dieppe, Venice and elsewhere, and married a brilliant organist, George Thalben-Ball, herself. After she married, she gave up painting, but she encouraged her daughter, Pamela, to pursue art. For the rest of her life, Chapman lived in England, only returning to Australia for a visit in 1960. The Art Gallery of New South Wales has her 1911 portrait of Dattilo Rubbo and a number of her paintings of France, Belgium and England. The Australian War Memorial, too, has several of her evocative French scenes.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, William Yang’s Self Portrait #2 (2007, below); and at centre in case, Alan Constable’s earthenware cameras (see below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Life Lines #3 – Self portrait #2 (1947)' 1947/2008

 

William Yang (Australian, b. 1943)
Self Portrait #2
2007
From the Self Portrait series
Inkjet print
Sheet: 84.0 x 50.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Ms Cora Trevarthen and Professor Andrew Reeves, 2013
© William Yang

 

 

William Yang shares childhood memories in this self-portrait. He recently reflected: ‘… I cal myself Australian, but I claim my Chinese heritage because that’s the way I look. Central to my art practice is my own story, which I tell in performances with projected images and music in theatres. My story is told against a backdrop of the times. This keys into my documentary-style photography. I have done a series of self-portraits of the same stories for exhibition in galleries. So my art and my life have become entwined and they both feed into each other. And I’ve come to terms with the way I look … It’s a great relief to feel comfortable in your own skin’.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Alan Constable’s Green large format camera (2013, below); and at right Alan Constable’s Not titled (Black Mamiya large format camera) (2013, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956) 'Not titled (Green large format camera)' 2013

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Not titled (Green large format camera)
2013
Earthenware
16.5 × 24.0 × 9.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Yvonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
© Courtesy of the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956) 'Not titled (Black Mamiya large format camera)' 2013

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Not titled (Black Mamiya large format camera)
2013
Earthenware
25.0 × 29.0 × 26.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Yvonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
© Courtesy of the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956) 'Not titled (Box Brownie)' 2013

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Not titled (Box Brownie)
2013
Earthenware
17.0 × 24.5 × 18.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Yvonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
© Courtesy of the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

 

Alan Constable’s lifelong fascination with cameras began when he was just eight years old, as he sculpted the objects picture on cereal boxes. Legally blind, Constable’s sculptural practice sometimes extends to other optical objects, such as binoculars and video recorders. Constable’s method involves holding the camera millimetres from his eyes, as he scans and feels the object, before quickly rendering his impressions in clay. Constable has worked at Arts Project Australia since 1991 and held his first solo show in 2011. His works speak to the processes of seeing and looking, and self-reflexively capture the objects that capture the image.

Display case text from the exhibition

 

Christian Thompson. 'Othering the Explorer, James Cook' 2016

 

Christian Thompson (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1978)
Authoring the explorer, James Cook
2015, printed 2016
From the Museum of Others series 2015-2016
Type C photograph on metallic paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of an anonymous donor through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2017

 

 

‘Today, we are still conditioned by historical tropes such as the bust-style portraits of colonial men who had roles in furthering the position of colonial Britain at the height of the imperial pursuit for claiming new frontiers, at the expense of the Indigenous custodians of countries including Australia. However, as famous as these colonial figures still are, I try to demonstrate that it is never too late to pierce, subvert and re-stage the spectres of history to gain agency from the position of the other. Through the work, I am proposing: let us scrutinise your history, your identities, your flaws.’ ~ Christian Thompson, 2017

Wall text from the exhibition

 

 

WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture is one of the most comprehensive explorations of portraiture ever mounted in Australia and the first exhibition to bring together the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. The exhibition will be on display in Melbourne from 25 March to 21 August 2022 and Canberra from 1 October 2022 to 29 January 2023.

Revealing the rich artistic synergies and contrasts between the two institutions’ collections, this co-curated exhibition considers portraiture in Australia across time and media, as well as the role of the portraiture genre in the development of a sense of Australian national identity.

Featuring more than two-hundred works by Australian artists including Patricia Piccinini, Atong Atem, Howard Arkley, Vincent Namatjira and Tracey Moffatt, and featuring sitters including Cate Blanchett, Albert Namatjira, Queen Elizabeth II, Eddie Mabo and David Gulpilil, the exhibition explores our inner worlds and outer selves, as well as issues of sociability, intimacy, isolation, celebrity and ordinariness.

The exhibition also questions what actually constitutes portraiture by examining the surprising and sometimes unconventional ways of representing likeness, such as the abstract self-portrait by John Nixon and Boris Cipusev’s typographic portrait of Jeff from The Wiggles. Polixeni Papapetrou’s Magma Man, a photograph which merges sitter and landscape until the two are almost indecipherable, and Shirley Purdie’s multi-panelled evocation of biography and Country further challenge the conventions of the genre and touch upon the intimate connection between artist, sitter and land. Alongside these works, iconic self-portraits will also be displayed by artists including John Brack, Nora Heysen and William Yang.

Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV, said: “This exhibition marks the first major partnership between the NGV and the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. By combining our respective portraiture collections and curatorial expertise in this area, we have been able to stage the largest thematic portraiture exhibition in the history of either institution. This presentation will no doubt offer audiences an unprecedented insight into the genre and its place in Australian art history.”

Karen Quinlan AM, Director, National Portrait Gallery, said: “The NPG is thrilled to work with the NGV on this extensive exploration of Australian portraiture. The exhibition comes at a time when, in the current global COVID environment, stories from home, about home, and the artists and identities who have shaped and continue to shape our nation are more compelling and important than ever. It is a privilege to be able to present our collection in conversation with the NGV’s and to explore the idea of Australian identity and its many layers and facets through the lens of portraiture.”

Presented across five thematic sections, the exhibition raises challenging and provocative questions about who we are and how we view others – historically, today and into the future. The exhibition opens by considering the connection between people and place, reflecting on the relationship between artists, sitters and the environment, as well as the personification of the natural world. Highlight works include a conceptual map depicting self and Country by Wawiriya Burton, Ngayaku Ngura (My Country) 2009, as well as the NGV’s recent acquisition Seven Sisters Song 2021 by Kaylene Whiskey, a painted road sign that is filled with personally significant, autobiographical references to pop culture.

A further section explores the artistic tradition of the self-portrait and portraits of artists, as well as how this convention has been subverted or challenged by contemporary artists working today. Works include Hari Ho’s Dadang Christanto 2005, which depicts the artist buried to the neck in sand, referencing the brutal killings of Indonesians in the failed military coup of September 1965, and Alan Constable’s Not titled (Green large format camera) 2013, personifying the act of photography with a hand modelled, ceramic camera.

Ideas of intimacy and alienation are juxtaposed through images of family and community presented alongside those of vulnerability and isolation. Works include Pat Larter’s Marty 1995, a graphic collage depicting a male sex worker, challenging the ease with which society consumes images of female nudity, and Naomi Hobson’s Warrior without a weapon 2019, a photographic series in which the artist challenges stereotypes about Indigenous men from her home community in Coen, by using flowers as a metaphor for male vulnerability.

The exhibition also explores portraiture’s surprising capacity to reveal the inner worlds and mindsets of both the sitter and the artist, as exemplified by Eric Thake’s satirical vignettes of figures in dream-like settings, and Hoda Afshar’s Remain 2018, a video exploring Australia’s controversial border protection policy and the human rights of those seeking asylum.

The final section of the exhibition interrogates Australian icons, identities and how we construct them. Works featured in this section include Michael Riley’s Maria 1986 and Polly Borland’s HM Queen Elizabeth II 2002, two works displayed side by side, drawing connections between archetypal imagery of royalty, with negative renderings of ‘otherness’ found in historical ethnographic portraiture.

WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture is presented by the NGV and the National Portrait Gallery and will be on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Fed Square from 25 March to 21 August 2022 and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra from 1 October 2022 to 29 January 2023.

WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture is generously supported by Major Partner, Deakin University.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria International

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at centre left, Bert Flugelman’s self portrait (1985, below). The legend of the artworks on the wall is below…
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Bert Flugelman (Australian born Austria, 1923-2013, Australia from 1938) 'Self portrait' c. 1985

 

Bert Flugelman (Australian born Austria, 1923-2013, Australia from 1938)
Self portrait
c. 1985
Stainless steel
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2009
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Bert Flugelman/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

 

Herbert ‘Bert’ Flugelman, sculptor, painter and lecturer, came to Australia from his native Vienna in 1938, aged fifteen. In the late 1940s he trained at the National Art School; he travelled and studied overseas through the first half of the 1950s. In 1967 he won first prize at the Mildura Sculpture Triennial with a large cast-iron equestrian piece. His subsequent public commissions include the untitled copper and ceramic mosaic fountain at Bruce Hall at the Australian National University; Spheres 1977 (known locally as Bert’s Balls) for the Rundle Street Mall, Adelaide; and the Dobell Memorial 1978 for Martin Place, Sydney. Controversially, Tumbling cubes (Dice) (Untitled) 1978/1979, originally made for Cameron Offices in Belconnen ACT, was some years ago moved to a nearby park, according to the artist a ‘hopelessly inappropriate site’. Cones 1982 dominates the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Australia, and the Winged figure (Lawrence Hargrave memorial) 1988 towers 6m high at Mt Keira, near Wollongong. Flugelman taught from 1973 to 1983 at the South Australian School of Art, and from 1984 to 1990 at the University of Wollongong, from which he received an honorary doctorate. There was a retrospective exhibition of his five decades’ work at the Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University in 2009.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 23/06/2022

 

Lewis Morley (Hong Kong 125 - Australia 2013, England 1945-1971, Australia from 1971) 'Self portrait in reflection' 1973 (installation view)

 

Lewis Morley (Hong Kong 125 – Australia 2013, England 1945-1971, Australia from 1971)
Self portrait in reflection (installation view)
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2003
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lewis Morley (Hong Kong 125 - Australia 2013, England 1945-1971, Australia from 1971) 'Self portrait in reflection' 1973

 

Lewis Morley (Hong Kong 125 – Australia 2013, England 1945-1971, Australia from 1971)
Self portrait in reflection
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2003
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Lewis Morley Archive LLC

 

 

Lewis Morley OAM (1925-2013), photographer, was born in Hong Kong and went to the United Kingdom with his family at the end of World War 2. He studied commercial art in London and spent time in Paris before taking up photography in 1954, initially working for magazines like Tatler, London Life and She. In 1961, he founded Lewis Morley Studios in Peter Cook’s London club, The Establishment. Here, he built his reputation with photographs of the celebrities that defined the hip spirit of London in the 1960s, among them Cook, Dudley Moore, Charlotte Rampling, Twiggy, Vanessa Redgrave and Jean Shrimpton. In 1963, Morley took one of the world’s most famous photographic portraits – that of Christine Keeler, short-term shared mistress of a British politician and a Soviet diplomat, naked on a Scandinavian chair. By 1971, Morley’s magazine and theatre work in London was petering out, and he emigrated to Australia, where, he said, ‘bingo! there was the sixties all over again’. Shooting increasingly in colour, Morley took many photographs for Dolly, POL, Belle and other publications that now afford an evocative record of changing Australian culture through the 1970s and 1980s. Many of Morley’s portraits from this era were shown in the National Portrait Gallery’s retrospective exhibition Lewis Morley: Myself and Eye in 2003. His work was also the subject of a major exhibitions staged by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 1989-1990; and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2006.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 23/06/2022

 

William Dargie (Australian, 1912-2003) 'Albert Namatjira' 1958 (installation view)

 

William Dargie (Australian, 1912-2003)
Albert Namatjira (installation view)
1958
Oil on canvas laid on composition board
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds donated by Marilyn Darling AC and the assistance of Philip Bacon Galleries 2000
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Albert Namatjira was a descendant of the Western Arrant people of the Northern Territory. Inspired by the spectacular landforms and vivid colours around his home at the Hermannsuburg Mission in the 1930s, Namatjira fused Western-influenced style of watercolour with unique expressions of traditional sites and sacred knowledge. Sir William Dargie CBE described Namatjira as having ‘tremendous inner dignity’ and within this portrait, he located Namatjira in his country in the MacDonnell Ranges. Holding one of his own landscapes, the portrait represents the intrinsic connection between the artist’s painting and identity. Namatjira was, and still is, an important presence in Australian art and a leading figure in the development of Aboriginal rights.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

William Dargie (Australian, 1912-2003) 'Albert Namatjira' 1958 (installation view detail)

 

William Dargie (Australian, 1912-2003)
Albert Namatjira (installation view detail)
1958
Oil on canvas laid on composition board
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds donated by Marilyn Darling AC and the assistance of Philip Bacon Galleries 2000
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rennie Ellis (Australian, 1940-2003) 'Sharpies, Melbourne' 1973

 

Rennie Ellis (Australian, 1940-2003)
Sharpies, Melbourne
1973, printed c. 1977-1978
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2006

 

 

‘Rather than capturing the subjects unawares I have encouraged them to pause, and even pose, from the camera. In this way they have an opportunity to communicate directly with me and to project whatever image they believe suits them best.’ ~ Rennie Ellis

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) 'Hera Roberts' 1936 (installation view)

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hera Roberts (installation view)
1936
Gelatin silver photograph
23.6 cm x 21.4cm
Gift of Rex Dupain 2003
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) 'Hera Roberts' 1936

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hera Roberts
1936
Gelatin silver photograph
23.6 cm x 21.4cm
Gift of Rex Dupain 2003
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

 

Hera Roberts (life dates unknown) was a painter, illustrator, designer, commercial artist and milliner. During the 1920s and 30s she produced many covers for the Home magazine, and arranged photo spreads for the magazine promoting fashionable interiors and furniture. She designed a complete room for the Burdekin House exhibition of 1929, including furniture, and also designed furniture for her companion Sydney Ure Smith. Roberts was regarded as an authoritative commentator on matters of style. She was the student and cousin of the artist Thea Proctor, who was also part of the network of ‘lady artists’ who were able to make their careers in interior decorating and taste arbitration. Co-owner of a millinery shop in Pitt Street called ‘June’, Roberts was also one of the finest female fencers in the Southern Hemisphere, operating out of the Sydney Swords Club.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 23/06/2022

 

Trevor Turbo Brown (Australian / Latje Latje, 1967-2017) 'Self-portrait, 'I am the Dingo Spirit'' 2015 (installation view)

 

Trevor Turbo Brown (Australian / Latje Latje, 1967-2017)
Self-portrait, ‘I am the Dingo Spirit’ (installation view)
2015
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Trevor Turbo Brown, or ‘Turbo’ as he was known, was born in Mildura and grew up on Latje Latje Country. In 1981, Turbo moved to Melbourne were he became a celebrity in the Koori community. He trained as a boxer at the Fitzroy Stars Gym from 1986 to 1991 and would do breakdance street performances throughout Melbourne during the 1980s and 1990s. It was here that he got his nickname. Turbo was a regular character on the streets of Brunswick before he passed away in 2017. In this self-portrait Turbo impinges himself as a dingo, wild and free in the night.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Trevor Turbo Brown (Australian / Latje Latje, b. 1967) Self-portrait, 'I am the Dingo Spirit' 2015

 

Trevor Turbo Brown (Australian / Latje Latje, b. 1967)
Self-portrait, ‘I am the Dingo Spirit’
2015
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
122.3 x 102.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Vince Sinni in memory of Trevor Turbo Brown through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2018
© the artist’s estate

 

John Brack. 'Self-portrait' 1955

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Self-portrait
1955
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the National Gallery Women’s Association, 2000

 

 

John Brack created images that explore the social rituals and realities of everyday living. Rendered in a subtle but complex colour scheme, with its subject stripped of vanity and dressed in early-morning attire, Self-portrait is a piercing study of a man engaged in the intimacy of shaving. Although images of women at their toilette have been recently depicted by both male and female Australian artists, it is unusual for men to be shown or to show themselves in this context.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne with second from left, Michael Cook’s Tunnel No. 2 (2014, below); at third from left, Ron Mueck’s Two Women (2005, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Michael Cook (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1968) 'Tunnel No. 2' 2014 (installation view)

 

Michael Cook (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1968)
Tunnel No. 2 (installation view)
2014
From the series Majority Rule
Inkjet print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Ybonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

‘In Majority Rule I created staged scenarios that question Australian history and the dominance of those in power. The series features the same anonymous Indigenous Man, multiplied over and over in each image. Australia’s Indigenous population comprises around three or four percent of our total population. My images seek to defy this reality and ask the viewer to speculate about an Australia where Aboriginal people constitute the majority of the country’s population; they paint a picture of a societal structure reversed … The works also serve as reminders fo the lack of Indigenous representation within Parliament, the judicial system and the business world.’ ~ Michael Cook, 2017

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Michael Cook (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1968) 'Tunnel No. 2' 2014

 

Michael Cook (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1968)
Tunnel No. 2
2014
From the series Majority Rule
Inkjet print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Ybonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Ron Mueck. 'Two woman' 2005

 

Ron Mueck (Australian born England, b. 1958)
Two women
2005
Polyester resin, fibreglass, silicone, polyurethane, aluminium, wire, steel, cotton, nylon, synthetic hair, plastic, metal
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2007

 

Ron Mueck. 'Two woman' 2005 (detail)

 

Ron Mueck (Australian born England, b. 1958)
Two women (detail)
2005
Polyester resin, fibreglass, silicone, polyurethane, aluminium, wire, steel, cotton, nylon, synthetic hair, plastic, metal
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2007

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Pierre Mukeba’s Impartiality (2018, below); at second right, William Frater’s Reclining nude (c. 1933, below); and at right, Pat Larter’s Marty (1995, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Pierre Mukeba (Australian born Democratic Republic of the Congo, b. 1995, Australia from 2006) 'Impartiality' 2018

 

Pierre Mukeba (Australian born Democratic Republic of the Congo, b. 1995, Australia from 2006)
Impartiality
2018
Fibre-tipped pen and printed fabric on cotton
245.0 × 270.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Anne Ross, 2018
© Pierre Mukeba, courtesy of GAGPROJECTS

 

 

Pierre Mukeba was a child when he fled with his family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Zambia, where they lived in a refugee camp before joining family in Zimbabwe. Following the Mugabe regime’s arrest order for non-nationals, the family applied for asylum through the Australian Embassy and relocated to Adelaide in 2006. In this work, Mukeba uses patterned Dutch wax print fabrics commonly perceived as being ‘African’, while in reality, they were appropriated from traditional Javanese bark by Dutch colonisers in the nineteenth century, mass produced in Europe and exported to Africa. This painting is part of a group of works by Mukeba, in which he draws on sociocultural standards of beauty and representations of his community.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974, Australia from 1913) 'Reclining nude' c. 1933 (installation view)

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974, Australia from 1913)
Reclining nude (installation view)
c. 1933
Oil on canvas on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1950
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974, Australia from 1913) 'Reclining nude' c. 1933 (installation view detail)

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974, Australia from 1913)
Reclining nude (installation view detail)
c. 1933
Oil on canvas on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1950
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974) 'The artist's wife' 1915

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974)
The artist’s wife
1915
Oil on canvas on plywood
47.0 x 32.9cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Joseph Brown Collection
Presented through the NGV Foundation by Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE, Honorary Life Benefactor, 2004

 

Pat Larter (Australian born England, 1936-1996, Australia from 1962) 'Marty' 1995 (installation view)

 

Pat Larter (Australian born England, 1936-1996, Australia from 1962)
Marty (installation view)
1995
Coloured inks, synthetic polymer paint, plastic, glitter and self-adhesive plastic collage on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1997
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Throughout her career, Pat Larter produced performance art, photography and multimedia images that focus on the consumption of the naked body throughout the media. Often adapting pornographic images to encourage debate on art, the body and censorship, Larter actively looked to challenge society’s ideas of the nude by producing striking, and sometimes humorous images. Marty is part of a series for which Larter visited Sydney’s brothels to photograph male sex workers. By showing the model in a full frontal, active position, Larter reflects on the double standards of how society consumes nudity in art. Images of naked women are viewed with ease, while depictions of naked men cause shock and often outrage.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, John Longstaff’s The young mother (1891, below); at centre Patricia Piccinini’s Nest (2006); at second right, a group of four photographs one by each of Jack Cato, Virginie Grange, Olive Cotton and Athol Shmith (see below); and at right Pierre Mukeba’s Impartiality (2018, above)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

John Longstaff (Australian, 1861-1941, France and England 1887-1895, England 1901-1920) 'The young mother' 1891 (installation view)

 

John Longstaff (Australian, 1861-1941, France and England 1887-1895, England 1901-1920)
The young mother (installation view)
1891
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the NGV Women’s Association, Alan and Mavourneen Cowen, Paula Fox, Ken and Jill Harrison and donors to the John Longstaff Appeal, 2013
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A gifted student, John Longstaff was awarded the National Gallery School’s inaugural travelling scholarship in 1887. Longstaff and Rosa Louisa (Topsy) Crocker married two months before departing to London in September 1887. An intimate depiction of motherhood, The young mother shows Topsy tenderly waving a palm fan over the outstretched arms of her son, Ralph, who was born in 1890. Topsy appears pale and slim after a long winter spent in their one-room apartment, divided by a curtain into sleeping and eating quarters. The subject of the mother and child has its origins in the depiction of the biblical Madonna and Child, and continued to be a popular subject for nineteenth-century artists recoding their personal and secular experiences with tenderness and conviction.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

John Longstaff (Australian, 1861-1941, France and England 1887-1895, England 1901-1920) 'The young mother' 1891 (installation view detail)

 

John Longstaff (Australian, 1861-1941, France and England 1887-1895, England 1901-1920)
The young mother (installation view detail)
1891
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the NGV Women’s Association, Alan and Mavourneen Cowen, Paula Fox, Ken and Jill Harrison and donors to the John Longstaff Appeal, 2013
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965) 'Nest' 2006 (installation view)

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965)
Nest (installation view)
2006
Enamel paint on fibreglass, leather, plastic, metal, rubber, mirror, transparent synthetic polymer resin, glass
(a-b) 104.2 × 197.0 × 186.4cm (variable) (installation)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2006
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965) 'Nest' 2006

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965)
Nest
2006
Enamel paint on fibreglass, leather, plastic, metal, rubber, mirror, transparent synthetic polymer resin, glass
(a-b) 104.2 × 197.0 × 186.4cm (variable) (installation)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2006
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at top left, Jack Cato’s No title (Nude model) (c. 1928-1932, below); at top right, Virginie Grange’s Untitled (1990, below); at bottom left, Olive Cotton’s The photographer’s shadow (Olive Cotton and Max Dupain) (c. 1935, below); and at bottom right, Athol Shmith’s No title (Nude portrait of woman on beanbag) (
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jack Cato (Australian, 1889-1971) 'No title (Nude model)' c. 1928-1932

 

Jack Cato (Australian, 1889-1971)
No title (Nude model)
c. 1928-1932
Gelatin silver photograph
Image and sheet: 44.1 × 33.7cm
Support: 49.1 × 37.8cm
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through the NGV Foundation by John Cato, Fellow, 2005

 

Virginie Grange (French; Australian, 1969-1990) 'Untitled' 1990

 

Virginie Grange (French; Australian, 1969-1990)
Untitled
1990
Type C photograph
35.0 × 35.1cm
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the artist’s family, 1991
© Estate of the artist

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'The photographer's shadow (Olive Cotton and Max Dupain)' c. 1935

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911-2003)
The photographer’s shadow (Olive Cotton and Max Dupain)
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print
16.6 cm x 15.2cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2010

 

 

Olive Cotton (1911-2003) and Max Dupain OBE (1911-1992) were pioneering modernist photographers. Cotton’s lifelong obsession with photography began at age eleven with the gift of a Kodak Box Brownie. She was a childhood friend of Dupain’s and in 1934 she joined his fledgling photographic studio, where she made her best-known work, Teacup Ballet, in about 1935. Throughout the 1930s, Dupain established his reputation with portraiture and advertising work and gained exposure in the lifestyle magazine The Home. Between 1939 and 1941, Dupain and Cotton were married and she photographed him often; her Max After Surfing is frequently cited as one of the most sensuous Australian portrait photographs. While Dupain was on service during World War II Cotton ran his studio, one of very few professional women photographers in Australia. Cotton remarried in 1944 and moved to her husband’s property near Cowra, New South Wales. Although busy with a farm, a family, and a teaching position at the local high school, Cotton continued to take photographs and opened a studio in Cowra in 1964. In the 1950s, Dupain turned increasingly to architectural photography, collaborating with architects and recording projects such as the construction of the Sydney Opera House. Dupain continued to operate his studio on Sydney’s Lower North Shore until he died at the age of 81. Cotton was in her seventies when her work again became the subject of attention. In 1983, she was awarded a Visual Arts Board grant to reprint negatives that she had taken over a period of forty years or more. The resulting retrospective exhibition in Sydney in 1985 drew critical acclaim and has since assured her reputation.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 24/06/2022

 

Athol Shmith (Australian, 1914-1990) 'No title (Nude portrait of woman on beanbag)' 1970s

 

Athol Shmith (Australian, 1914-1990)
No title (Nude portrait of woman on beanbag)
1970s
Gelatin silver photograph
28.0 × 22.4cm
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by the Shmith Family, Governor, 1995
© Estate of Athol Shmith

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne with at second left, Danila Vassielieff’s Young girl (Shirley) (1937, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Hollick (Australian, 1883-1977) 'Janet Armstrong, Woodbury Estate, Deniliquin, New South Wales' c. 1939

 

Ruth Hollick (Australian, 1883-1977)
Janet Armstrong, Woodbury Estate, Deniliquin, New South Wales
c. 1939
Gelatin silver photograph
21.6 × 28.8cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Lucy Crosbie Morrison, 1992

 

Danila Vassilieff (Australian born Russia, 1897-1958, Australia 1923-1929, Central and South America, Europe, England, 1929-1935, Australia from 1935) 'Young girl (Shirley)' 1937 (installation view)

 

Danila Vassilieff (Australian born Russia, 1897-1958, Australia 1923-1929, Central and South America, Europe, England, 1929-1935, Australia from 1935)
Young girl (Shirley) (installation view)
1937
Oil on canvas on composition board
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
National Gallery Society of Victoria Century Fund, 1984
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Danila Vassilieff (Australian born Russia, 1897-1958, Australia 1923-1929, Central and South America, Europe, England, 1929-1935, Australia from 1935) 'Young girl (Shirley)' 1937

 

Danila Vassilieff (Australian born Russia, 1897-1958, Australia 1923-1929, Central and South America, Europe, England, 1929-1935, Australia from 1935)
Young girl (Shirley)
1937
Oil on canvas on composition board
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
National Gallery Society of Victoria Century Fund, 1984

 

Grace Cossington Smith (Australian, 1892-1984) 'Boys drawing' c. 1926-1927 (installation view)

 

Grace Cossington Smith (Australian, 1892-1984)
Boys drawing (installation view)
c. 1926-1927
Oil on plywood
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the Marjorie Webster Memorial, Governor, 1983
© Estate of Grace Cossington Smith
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Grace Cossington Smith (Australian, 1892-1984) 'Boys drawing' c. 1926-1927

 

Grace Cossington Smith (Australian, 1892-1984)
Boys drawing
c. 1926-1927
Oil on plywood
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the Marjorie Webster Memorial, Governor, 1983
© Estate of Grace Cossington Smith

 

 

The 1920s saw the advancement of modernism in Australia, due in large part to the dedication of women artists such as Grace Cossington Smith to work in modern styles. Celebrated for her iconic urban images and luminous interiors, Cossington Smith first studied with Antonio Dattilo Rubbo in Sydney, and between 912 and 1914, she toured Germany and England with her family. Following her return to Rubbo’s school, Cossington Smith starting producing work in a cutting-edge Post-Impressionistic style. For several years Cossington Smith worked as a part-time teacher at Turramurra College, a day and boarding school for boys. During this period she developed a painting technique based on the idea that vibrations emanating from colour expressed a spiritual condition as well as optical movement.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-1886, Australia 1834-1857, 1884-1886) 'Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware' 1856 (installation view)

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-1886, Australia 1834-1857, 1884-1886)
Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware (installation view)
1856
Oil on canvas
63.7 × 76.4cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Eleanor M. Borrow Bequest, 2007
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86) 'Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware' 1856

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-1886, Australia 1834-1857, 1884-1886)
Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware
1856
Oil on canvas
63.7 × 76.4cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Eleanor M. Borrow Bequest, 2007

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne with at left, E. Phillips Fox’s Dolly, daughter of Hammond Clegg Esq. (1896, below); at second left, Nora Heysen’s Self portrait (1934, below); and at third right, Florence Fuller’s Paper Boy (1888, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Nora Heysen (Australian, 1911-2003, lived in England and Italy 1934-1937) 'Self portrait' 1934

 

Nora Heysen (Australian, 1911-2003, lived in England and Italy 1934-1937)
Self portrait
1934
Oil on canvas
43.1 x 36.3cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 1999
© Lou Klepac

 

Florence Fuller (Australian born South Africa, 1867-1946, Australia from 1868) '(Paper boy)' 1888 (installation view)

 

Florence Fuller (Australian born South Africa, 1867-1946, Australia from 1868)
(Paper boy) (installation view)
1888
Oil on canvas
61.2 × 45.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Paper boys were prominent part of street life in nineteenth-century Melbourne. Mostly from disadvantaged circumstances, boys as young as eight would work long hours selling newspapers on the city’s streets, many supporting single mothers or siblings, or working to survive independently. The boys were exposed to crime and exploitation, and were seen as hardened and cheeky, yet Florence Fuller’s portrait is sensitive and nuanced. Her work is often focused on those living in poverty, which provides insight into Melbourne’s social diversity. Fuller worked as a professional artist throughout her life – encouraged by her parents and her uncle, artist Robert Dowling – and exhibited at the Paris Salon and the Royal Academy, London.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

Josephine Muntz Adams (Australian, 1862-1950) 'Italian girl's head' 1913 (installation view)

 

Josephine Muntz Adams (Australian, 1862-1950)
Italian girl’s head (installation view)
1913
Oil on canvas
51.0 × 42.9cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1936
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Josephine Muntz Adams (Australian, 1862-1950) 'Italian girl's head' 1913

 

Josephine Muntz Adams (Australian, 1862-1950)
Italian girl’s head
1913
Oil on canvas
51.0 × 42.9cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1936

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing the work of Simon Obarzanek from his series 80 Faces (2002, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Simon Obarzanek (Australian born Israel, b. 1968, United States 1995-2001) 'Untitled (80 faces) #78' 2002

 

Simon Obarzanek (Australian born Israel, b. 1968, United States 1995-2001)
Untitled (80 faces) #78
2002
Gelatin silver photograph
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the artist through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2013
© Simon Obarzanek

 

 

The black and white photographs from Simon Obarzanek’s 80 Faces series show frontal portraits of teenagers, captured from the shoulders up with a consistent, neutral backdrop. The sitters are all aged between fourteen and seventeen, the majority from Victoria’s state schools. When capturing their image, the artist only spends five minutes with each sitter, and discusses nothing about their life. In this body of work, Obarzanek explores the idea that the identity or appearance of an individual sitter reveals something new to the audience when viewed as part of a series.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

Simon Obarzanek (Australian born Israel, b. 1968, United States 1995-2001) 'Untitled (80 faces) #59' 2002

 

Simon Obarzanek (Australian born Israel, b. 1968, United States 1995-2001)
Untitled (80 faces) #59
2002
Gelatin silver photograph
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the artist through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2013
© Simon Obarzanek

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Maria Brownrigg’s An evening at Yarra Cottage, Port Stephens (1857, below); and at second left, Samuel Metford’s MacKenzie family silhouette (1846, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Maria Brownrigg (Australian born Ireland 1812-1880, South Africa date unknown - c. 1852, Australia from 1852) 'An evening at Yarra Cottage, Port Stephens' 1857 (installation view)

 

Maria Brownrigg (Australian born Ireland 1812-1880, South Africa date unknown – c. 1852, Australia from 1852)
An evening at Yarra Cottage, Port Stephens (installation view)
1857
Watercolour and collage on paper
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2017
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Maria Brownrigg (Australian born Ireland 1812-1880, South Africa date unknown - c. 1852, Australia from 1852) 'An evening at Yarra Cottage, Port Stephens' 1857

 

Maria Brownrigg (Australian born Ireland 1812-1880, South Africa date unknown – c. 1852, Australia from 1852)
An evening at Yarra Cottage, Port Stephens
1857
Watercolour and collage on paper
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2017

 

 

Maria Caroline Brownrigg came to New South Wales in 1852, when her husband was appointed superintendent of the Australian Agricultural Company’s operations in the Hunter River district. The family lived at Stroud and subsequently at Port Stephens, where Brownrigg made this portrait of her six children. It is the only known example of Brownrigg’s work. Though ‘amateur’, it is valuable to decorative arts and social historians, for its detailed documentation of an appropriately conducted mid nineteenth-century drawing room, and for what it reveals about Victorian gender ideals and aspirations to gentility.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

Samuel Metford (England 1810-1890, lived in United States 1834-1844) 'MacKenzie family silhouette' 1846

 

Samuel Metford (England 1810-1890, lived in United States 1834-1844)
MacKenzie family silhouette
1846
Brush and ink, pen and ink, stencil cutout with watercolour highlights on paper
43.2 x 64.0cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the Estate of Nancy Wiseman

 

 

Samuel Metford was born in Glastonbury, into a Quaker family. In England he came to specialise in full-length silhouette likenesses, cut from black paper and embellished with gold and white paint. According to the standard text on British silhouettes, Metford made ‘some very fine family groups – Father and Mother surrounded by their children and pets, with hand-painted backgrounds of imposing rooms whose tall windows looked out on wide landscapes, or a seascape with a tall-funnelled steamship in a prominent position.’ Metford moved to America in about 1834, and spent some ten years there, working mostly in Connecticut but also in New York and South Carolina. He returned to England in the early 1840s, and lived there for the rest of his life, although he revisited America in 1869 and 1867. He died at Weston-Super-Mare.

Samuel Metford (1810-1896), specialised in full-length silhouette likenesses on hand-painted watercolour backgrounds, sometimes embellished with gold and white paint or featuring gentrified interiors. Born in Glastonbury, Somerset, he received tuition from French silhouette artist Augustin Edouart, before going to America and working for the next ten years in New York, Philadelphia and Boston. His return to England in the mid-1840s coincided with the downturn in demand for profile portraits occasioned by photography which, by the 1860s, had rendered art forms such as the silhouette passé. This silhouette depicts the family of Francis MacKenzie (1806-1851, seated far right) at Adlington Hall in Standish, Lancashire. Following Francis MacKenzie’s death, his widow, Maria (1810-1874, third from left) emigrated to Australia with her five children. Maria’s eldest son, John (1833-1917, seated, left, at the table), was Examiner of Coalfields in the Illawarra from 1863 and 1865, later becoming Examiner of Coalfields for NSW. Her sons Walter (1835-1886, seated, right, at the table) and Kenneth (d. 1903) are thought to have become clergymen. Her youngest daughter, Maria (1842-1917, second from left), married a doctor, Alexander Morson, in 1875. Another daughter, Caroline (1837-1922, fourth from left), remained unmarried and died at the family property near Dapto in 1922. Other sitters shown in the silhouette are Maria’s mother, Mrs Thomas Edwards (far left); and her youngest child, William, who died, aged six, in 1851. Maria MacKenzie died at Wallerawang in New South Wales in 1874. The silhouette was bequeathed to the Gallery by her great-grandaughter in 2007.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website updated 2018 [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Installation view of Anna Josepha King and Fanny Jane Marlay

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing by unknown artists – at left, Anna Josepha King (c. 1826-1832, below); and at right, Fanny Jane Marlay (c. 1841, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown artist. 'Anna Josepha King' c. 1826-1832

 

Unknown artist (Australia)
Anna Josepha King
c. 1826-1832
watercolour and gouache on ivory
Frame: 9.7 cm x 8.3cm
Sheet: 8.5 cm x 6.5cm
Image: 7.0 cm x 5.7cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2018

 

 

Before the early 1840s, when photography began to take hold, portrait miniatures were a favoured means by which people might secure tangible and enduring mementos of their loved ones. Typically executed in watercolour on panels of ivory and contained in petite frames or mounted in pendants, brooches, rings, and lockets, miniatures were designed to be clutched, kissed, carried close to the heart or displayed on a bedside table. Many early Australian colonists brought British-made miniatures with them, but increasing numbers of free settlers from the 1820s onwards soon created demand for miniatures by local, readily-available artists.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Unknown artist. 'Fanny Jane Marlay' c. 1841

 

Unknown artist (Australia)
Fanny Jane Marlay
c. 1841
watercolour on ivory
Frame: 7.5 cm x 6.3cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2013

 

 

Fanny Jane Marlay (1819-1848) came to Sydney with her free-settler family around 1825. In 1838, she met John Lort Stokes (1812-1885), an explorer, naval officer and surveyor appointed to HMS Beagle, which was then engaged in a surveying voyage of the Australian coast. In the course of it, Stokes charted much of what is now the coast of the Northern Territory; gave Darwin its name (after his former shipmate, Charles Darwin); and surveyed the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Arafura Sea, the Torres Strait, the Western Australian coast, and Bass Strait. He and Fanny married in Sydney in January 1841. Later the same year, Stoke succeeded to the command of the Beagle. Their daughter was born in 1842. Fanny returned with Stokes to England in 1843 and died while en route to Sydney again in 1848. Back in England from 1851, Stokes was eventually promoted to admiral. He died at his home, Scotchwell, in Pembrokeshire, in June 1885, survived by his second wife, Louisa, whom he’d married in 1856, and by his daughter from his marriage to Fanny.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ada Whiting (Australian, 1859-1953) 'The Earl of Linlithgow' 1901

 

Ada Whiting (Australian, 1859-1953)
The Earl of Linlithgow
1901
Watercolour on ivory
6.6 × 5.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Violet Whiting, 1989

 

Ludwig Becker (Australian born Germany, 1808-1861) 'Caroline Davidson' 1854 (installation view)

 

Ludwig Becker (Australian born Germany, 1808-1861)
Caroline Davidson (installation view)
1854
Watercolour on fictile ivory
Image: 5.7 × 4.6cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1996
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown artist (Australia) 'Thomas and John Clarke, bushrangers, photographed in Braidwood gaol' 1867

 

Unknown artist (Australia)
Thomas and John Clarke, bushrangers, photographed in Braidwood gaol
1867
Albumen silver photograph laid down on a section cut from a nineteenth-century album page
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2019

 

 

John (c. 1846-1867) (left) and Thomas Clarke (c. 1840-1867), bushrangers, grew up near Braidwood and from a young age were schooled in nefarious activities including horse-theft. John was 17 when he first went to prison and Thomas was purported to have ridden with the infamous Ben Hall. In October 1865, Thomas escaped from gaol while awaiting trial for armed robbery; thereafter, aided by various mates, he embarked on a string of depredations around Braidwood, Araluen and further south. In April 1866, at Nerrigundah, the gang engaged in a hold-up that left a policeman dead. Thomas was outlawed in May, by which time John had joined him. Reports described them as ‘well-mounted, and armed to the teeth’. In September 1866 colonial secretary Henry Parkes sent four special constables to Braidwood ‘for the express purpose of hunting down the desperate marauders’. In January 1867, the four were murdered in an ambush at Jinden. The Clarkes were blamed immediately and the authorities offered rewards of £1000 each, alive or dead. Aided by an effective bush telegraph system, the brothers evaded capture until April 1867, when they were tracked to a hideout near Araluen, apprehended, and taken to Braidwood Gaol. There, an as yet unidentified photographer took portraits that were sold by a Goulburn bookseller for two shillings and sixpence each. The brothers were later tried in Sydney before Sir Alfred Stephen, who in sentencing them to death noted the more than 60 offences, excluding murders, of which they were suspected.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing a selction of cartes de visite: at top left, Freeman Brothers Studio, Sydney (Australia 1854-1900) Maria Windeyer (c. 1865-1868); at second left top, Batchelder & O’Neill (Australia active 1857-1863) Frances Perry (c. 1863); at second right top, Townsend Duryea (Australian born America, 1823-1888) Sarah and Ann Jacob c. 1866; at top right, Batchelder & O’Neill (Australia active 1857-1863) Lady Barkly (1863); at bottom left, James E. Bray (Australia 1832-1891) Madame Sibly, Phrenologist and Mesmerist (c. 1870); at centre bottom, Stephen Edward Nixon (England 1842 – Australia 1910) Catholic clergymen from the Diocese of Adelaide (c. 1862); and at bottom right, Archibald McDonald (Canada c. 1831 – Australia 1873, Australia from c. 1847) Chang the Chinese Giant with his wife Kin Foo and manager Edward Parlett (c. 1871)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

James E. Bray (Australia, 1832-1891) 'Madame Sibly, Phrenologist and Mesmerist' c. 1870

 

James E. Bray (Australia, 1832-1891)
Madame Sibly, Phrenologist and Mesmerist
c. 1870
albumen silver carte de visite photograph
Mount: 10.1 cm x 6.2cm
Image: 9.4 cm x 5.5cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2017

 

 

Marie Sibly (c. 1830-1894), mesmerist and phrenologist, performed in towns throughout Australia for nearly twenty years. Purportedly French-born, she arrived in Sydney around 1867 and worked as a clairvoyant, making her first stage appearances in 1868. By 1871 she was in Melbourne, ‘manipulating heads’ for packed houses at Weston’s Opera House on Bourke Street before embarking on a tour of Victoria. Through the 1870s she toured New South Wales and Queensland, her shows incorporating séances, phrenological readings and hypnotisms whereby audiences members were induced to fight, dance, sing or behave absurdly. A report of one performance described how she convinced two men to fetch a leg of lamb from the butcher; she then made them think they were dogs and they ate it. Her later repertoire included ‘baby exhibitions’ in which prizes were awarded to the specimens with the best mental and physical capacity. She took up land at Parkes in 1877 but continued touring regardless. By the mid-1880s she was in New South Wales again, performing with her daughter, ‘Zel the Magnetic Lady’, and advertising her range of remedies for conditions such as gout, rheumatism and neuralgia. She was known by various names throughout her career although it is unclear how many husbands she had. Having ‘retired from the platform’ she ran a store at Drake, near Tenterfield, where she died in April 1894.

James E Bray ran a business called the ‘Prince of Wales Photographic Gallery’ on George Street, Sydney, which was sold in late 1865. He then went to Victoria, and by early 1868 was reported as ‘having an extensive gallery built at his place of business, Camp Street, Beechworth’. There, he was enabled to ‘execute Every Variety of Photographic Portraiture’, including ‘Cartes de Viste, Tinted or Fully Colored in Water Colors’. He appears to have stocked portraits of international celebrities (such as the conman Arthur Orton, aka The Tichborne Claimant) in addition to taking likenesses for local citizens. Notably, he was among the photographers who documented the Kelly gang and their off-shoots: such as the 22 men of Irish descent who were banged up in Beechworth Gaol for four months without charge in 1879 on the off-chance they might be Kelly sympathisers. Another of Bray’s cartes shows constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, whose attempt to arrest Dan Kelly had initiated the gang’s formation in the first place. Marie Sibly performed in the Beechworth area on several occasions during Bray’s time there. Her reading of certain gentlemen’s heads in Eldorado in August 1871 was judged so accurate that it was assumed she’d ‘received some private information about the parties’; and at a séance in Wangaratta that year, ‘a young man, while under mesmeric influence’ had ‘rudely seized’ the wife of another chap, who struck said young man with a stick. In winter 1879 Sibly was in Beechworth, Chiltern, Corowa, Bright and other towns, variously causing offence, sensation or consternation, it seems, wherever she went – and thus becoming a ‘sure card’ for photographers.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ola Cohn (Australian, 1892-1964) 'Lina' 1958 (installation view)

 

Ola Cohn (Australian, 1892-1964)
Lina (installation view)
1958
Earthenware
34.4 x 14.9 x 21.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Lina Bryans, 1969
© Centre for Adult Education & Box Hill Institute
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ola Cohn (Australian, 1892-1964) 'Lina' 1958

 

Ola Cohn (Australian, 1892-1964)
Lina
1958
Earthenware
34.4 x 14.9 x 21.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Lina Bryans, 1969
© Centre for Adult Education & Box Hill Institute

 

Ah Xian (Australian born China, b. 1960) 'Dr John Yu' 2004 (installation view)

 

Ah Xian (Australian born China, b. 1960)
Dr John Yu (installation view)
2004
Glazed ceramic
42.0 x 42.0 depth 31.0cm
Commissioned with funds provided by Marilyn Darling AC 2004
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ah Xian came to Australia from Beijing in 1989, having already gained some recognition and experience as an artist here. His application for permanent residency took many years to process, and he worked for a long time as a house painter. He began casting porcelain busts and painting them with traditional Chinese designs in 1997; an artist-in-residency followed, he sold a bust to Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, and he held his first solo show in Melbourne in 2000. The following year, he won the National Gallery of Australia’s inaugural National Sculpture Prize with his life-size painted cloisonne enamel figure Human human: “Human Human : Lotus Cloisonne Figure 1 (2000-2001)”.

Dr John Yu (b. 1934), retired paediatrician and hospital administrator, was born in Nanking, China and moved to Australia with his parents when he was three years old. Educated in Sydney, from 1961 he worked at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children (which became the New Children’s Hospital, Westmead), becoming Head of Medicine and serving as its Chief Executive for 19 years before retiring in 1997. For many years he chaired and served on diverse bodies related to children’s health, education, medicine and the arts. From 2004 he was Chair of VisAsia, promoting appreciation of Asian visual arts and culture. He has published a number of books and many papers on paediatrics, hospital management and the decorative arts. Accepting his Australian of the Year Award in 1996, Yu said, ‘I am proud of my Chinese heritage but even prouder to be an Australian’.

In his celadon bust, Ah Xian depicts Yu life-size with his eyes closed while four colourful miniature children clamber over him. In Chinese tradition, children indicate great prosperity and happiness. As Yu noted: ‘A lot of Chinese sculptures have young children climbing all over the subject. I was really pleased because it related to and reflected on my life work as a paediatrician.’

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website updated 2018 [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Ah Xian celebrates a once-threatened Chinese artisanal tradition of porcelain-ming and decoration. His portraits are a statement of creative freedom and his Chinese-Australian identity, which he shares with his sitter. The mould for this bust was cast in plaster from life – ‘a funny spooky feeling’ according to the subject, who was 1996 Australian of the Year, Dr John Yu. Yu observed of his portrait, ‘people might assume that the first thing that remains me of my heritage is my facial appearance. But it’s not. It’s actually the children … A lot of Chinese sculptures have young children climbing all over the subject. I was really pleased because it related to and reflected on my life work as a paediatrician’.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

Ah Xian (Australian born China, b. 1960) 'Dr John Yu' 2004

 

Ah Xian (Australian born China, b. 1960)
Dr John Yu
2004
Glazed ceramic
42.0 x 42.0 depth 31.0cm
Commissioned with funds provided by Marilyn Darling AC 2004
© Ah Xian

 

Ricardo Idagi (Australian / Meriam Mir, b. 1957) False Evidence Appearing Real 2012 (installation view)

 

Ricardo Idagi (Australian / Meriam Mir, b. 1957)
False Evidence Appearing Real (installation view)
2012
Earthenware, under glaze, wood, steel, plastic and glassMeasurements
60.0 × 37.0 × 27.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2013
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brook Andrew. 'I Split Your Gaze' 1997

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
I Split Your Gaze
1997, printed 2005
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds from the Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2005

 

 

‘I’ve cut the image in half and then reversed it so you can’t actually look at the person straight on. And I suppose that’s what racism is about. It’s about cutting racism down the centre. It’s about cutting differences down the centre. Neither part of the portrait in I split your gaze is whole and in being simultaneously halved and doubled the viewer is forced to stare blankly through the image, rather than making eye contact with the subject. Identity becomes mutable through repetition and we observe the man without really looking at him. The work operates as a metaphor for Australia as a society divided on issues concerning race relations.’ ~ Brook Andrew, 2005

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Mike Parr (Australian, b. 1945) John Loane (printer) (Australian, b. 1950) '12 untitled self portraits (set 3)' 1990 (installation view)

 

Mike Parr (Australian, b. 1945)
John Loane (printer) (Australian, b. 1950)
12 untitled self portraits (set 3) (installation view)
1990
Drypoint on 12 sheets of paper, unique state prints on paper
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Sara Kelly 2010. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In the early 1980s Mike Parr embarked no his ‘Self Portrait Project’, exploring representation of the psychological self. An artist who works across live performance, photography, works on paper, sculpture and installation, Parr said: ‘I am constantly finding ways to perform the alienation of likeness’. In this work, Parr’s self-image simultaneously coalesces and violently disintegrates across the drypoint plates. The work’s burrs – jagged edges where the needle has ripped through the metal – record the violence of the printing process. The butts hold more ink, creating the deep black lines and a ferocious visualisation of internal turmoil and chaos.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at centre, Peter Booth’s Painting (1977, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Peter Booth (Australian, b. 1940) 'Painting' 1977

 

Peter Booth (Australian, b. 1940)
Painting
1977
Oil on canvas
182.5 × 304.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the artist in memory of Les Hawkins, 1978
© Peter Booth/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Selina Ou’s Anita ticket seller (2002m below); and at right, Peter Booth’s Painting (1977, above)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Selina Ou (Australian born Malaysia, b. 1977) 'Anita ticket seller' 2002, printed 2005

 

Selina Ou (Australian born Malaysia, b. 1977)
Anita ticket seller
2002, printed 2005
From the Enclosure series 2002
type C photograph
Image: 100.6 × 99.3cm irreg.
Sheet: 126.6 × 119.3cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Selina Ou, represented by Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at second left, Petrina Hicks‘ Lauren (2003, below); at third right, Christian Waller‘s Destiny (1916, below); at second right, Charles Dennington‘s Adut Akech (2018, below); and at right, Tony Kearney‘s Gill Hicks (2016, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972) 'Lauren' 2003

 

Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Lauren
2003
From the Lauren series 2003
Lightjet photograph
152.7 x 127.0cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2006
© Petrina Hicks. Courtesy of Michael Reid, Sydney; and This Is No Fantasy, Melbourne

 

 

In this series, Petrina Hicks draws on the tension between perfection and imperfection, the ideal and the real. The model, Lauren, has a look of serenity and otherworldliness – her pale skin, white hair and angelic pose are suggestive of a sculptural marble bust. However, what appears to be a picture of absolute perfection, is a skilfully manipulated image using complex studio lighting and digital technologies, techniques common to glamour and celebrity portraiture that subtly manipulate and remove physical imperfections. The result is a face that appears both fundamentally ‘real’ yet with a flawless quality, resulting in an uncanny and eerie element to the work.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Destiny' 1916

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Destiny
1916
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated from the Estate of Ouida Marston, 2011

 

 

Destiny, personified by a female figure, blows gently into a large bowl of water in which can be seen hundreds of tiny need figures floating within fragile bubbles. An allegory of unpredictable foreign, Destiny would have had a particular relevance in the early years of the First World War, a time when Australians were becoming aware of the scale of loss of life the war would bring. Painted in 1916 soon after the artist’s marriage to Napier Waller in late 1915, and in the same years that Waller left for active service in France, Destiny may also have had more personal associations for the artist.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Charles Dennington (Australian, b. 1982) 'Adut Akech' 2018, printed 2020 (installation view)

 

Charles Dennington (Australian, b. 1982)
Adut Akech (installation view)
2018, printed 2020
Inkjet print on paper
Image: 94.9 x 71.3cm
Sheet: 111.2 x 80cm
Gift of the artist 2020
© Charles Dennington
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Charles Dennington (Australian, b. 1982) 'Adut Akech' 2018, printed 2020

 

Charles Dennington (Australian, b. 1982)
Adut Akech
2018, printed 2020
Inkjet print on paper
Image: 94.9x 71.3cm
Sheet: 111.2 x 80cm
Gift of the artist 2020
© Charles Dennington

 

 

Adut Akech Bior (b. 1999), supermodel, was born in South Sudan and spent the first several years of her life in the UN’s Kakuma refugee camp in north-west Kenya, after her family fled from civil war. They came to Australia in 2008 and settled in Adelaide. Her break-out modelling assignment came at the age of sixteen, when she walked the runway for Yves Saint Laurent at Paris Fashion Week 2016. In 2017, she became only the second woman of colour to model bridal gowns for Chanel. The following year she featured in the Pirelli calendar, and made 33 appearances at Paris Fashion Week. She was selected by the Duchess of Sussex to feature in British Vogue’s ‘Forces for Change’ edition in 2019, which profiled her activism on humanitarian issues, the rights of asylum seekers, and racial and gender equality.

Charles Dennington’s portrait of Akech was originally taken for the December 2018 issue of Vogue Australia. Dennington discussed plans for the shoot with Akech in advance, giving him a deeper insight into the model’s personal life. This conceptual portrait is one of a group of images that present a funky and upbeat glimpse of the Sudanese-Australian model and her family at home in Adelaide.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Tony Kearney (Australian, b. 1958) 'Gill Hicks' 2016

 

Tony Kearney (Australian, b. 1958)
Gill Hicks
2016
Inkjet print on paper, edition 1/5
Image: 129.3 cm x 101.5cm
Sheet: 138.0 cm x 110.0cm
Purchased 2016
© Tony Kearney

 

 

Gill Hicks AM MBE (b. 1968) is a peace advocate, author, musician and artist. Having grown up in Adelaide, she moved to London in 1991 and worked as publishing director for architectural magazine Blueprint and as a senior curator with the Design Council. On 7 July 2005 Hicks set out for work as usual; within hours, she was the last living casualty rescued from one of three Underground trains attacked by terrorists in the ‘7/7’ London bombings. Having lost 80 per cent of her blood, she was not expected to live. Both her legs were amputated below the knee. As soon as she was able to walk on prosthetics, Hicks visited Beeston, where three of the bombers had come from, and met members of their community, who embraced her. She returned to Adelaide in 2012, where she has continued her work within the arts, launching a studio and online business, M.A.D Minds.

Tony Kearney took this photograph of Hicks in a dark basement in one of Port Adelaide’s old woolstores. Although she was in pain, Kearney notes: ‘We worked together for more than two hours, Gill uncomplaining and cheerful. Sometimes she would need to sit absolutely still for up to sixteen seconds in order to achieve the right exposure.’

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

James Gleeson (Australian, 1915-2008) 'We inhabit the corrosive littoral of habit' 1940 (installation detail)

 

James Gleeson (Australian, 1915-2008)
We inhabit the corrosive littoral of habit (installation detail)
1940
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Anonymous gift, 1941
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

As an artist, writer and curator, James Gleeson was a key exponent of Surrealism in Australia. In 1937 he studied at Sydney Teachers’ College where he encountered the psychoanalytical theory of Sigmund Freud, and developed an interest in the art and literature of European artists associated with the Dada and Surrealist movements. He produced his first Surrealist paintings and poem-drawings soon after, in 1938. Although his style and subject matter continued to transform, Gleeson was committed to Surrealism throughout his sixty-year career and unsettling, dreamlike imagery remained a consistent thread in his work.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Del Kathryn Barton (Australian, b. 1972) 'inside another land 13' 2017 (installation view)

 

Del Kathryn Barton (Australian, b. 1972)
inside another land 13 (installation view)
2017
Synthetic polymer paint on inkjet print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2018
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In this montage, Del Kathryn Barton creates post-human imagery where the female body is both human and plant. Artists belonging to the early twentieth century art movement Dadaism used collage to access the Freudian domain of the unconscious mind, and the great Dada artist Hannah Höch was a key proponent of photomontage in her exploration of the role of women in a changing world. Similarly, Barton uses collage to critique the illusion of an orderly world, in favour of absurdity. The visual delirium induces a kind of hallucinatory experience in which new creatures seem possible. In part, Barton incorporates imagery of the flower as a widely understood symbol of female sexuality: their physical resemblance to women’s genitalia is coupled with an associate significance in their blooming, invoking the creation of new life.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Del Kathryn Barton (Australian, b. 1972) 'inside another land 13' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton (Australian, b. 1972)
inside another land 13
2017
Synthetic polymer paint on inkjet print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2018

 

Rona Panangka Rubuntja (Australian / Arrente, b. 1970) 'I'm black (Nicky Winmar), covered vase' 2015 (installation view)

 

Rona Panangka Rubuntja (Australian / Arrente, b. 1970)
I’m black (Nicky Winmar), covered vase (installation view)
2015
Earthenware
(a-b) 53.1 x 24.8cm diameter (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2015
© Rona Panangka Rubuntja/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Rona Panangka Rubuntja (Australian / Arrente, b. 1970)
I’m black (Nicky Winmar), covered vase
2015
Earthenware
(a-b) 53.1 x 24.8cm diameter (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2015
© Rona Panangka Rubuntja/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

 

Rona Panangka Rubuntja joined the Hermannsberg Potters in 1988 and has since established herself as a prominent ceramic artist. This work celebrates legendary AFL star Nicky Winmar, who in 1993 defiantly protested racial taunts by pointing to his skin colour. Winner’s action held widespread attention across Australian media and called to action the ongoing issues of racism in Australian sport. As the artist recalls, ‘I remember when Nicky Winmar lifted his shirt to show that he was black. We will always support Nicky Winmar’.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Adelaide Perry‘s Rachel Roxburgh (1939, below); at second left, Joy Hester‘s Pauline McCarthy (1945, below); at second right, Sybil Craig‘s Peggy (c. 1932, below); and at right, Constance StokesPortrait of a woman in a green dress (1930, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Adelaide Perry‘s Rachel Roxburgh (1939, below); at second left, Joy Hester‘s Pauline McCarthy (1945, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Adelaide Perry (Australian 1891-1973) 'Rachel Roxburgh' 1939

 

Adelaide Perry (Australian 1891-1973)
Rachel Roxburgh
1939
Oil on canvas
Frame: 77.0 cm x 67.0cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2018

 

 

Adelaide Perry held her first solo exhibition in Sydney in 1927, when she was described by Art in Australia magazine as ‘better equipped perhaps than any of the artist of her generation in this country’. The recipient, in 1920, of the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship, Perry had studied in Paris and at the Royal Academy Schools, and became a founding member of the Contemporary Group after settling in Sydney in 1926. In 1933 she established the Adelaide Perry School of Art. Artist and conservationist Rachel Roxburgh studies there and, like Perry, exhibited with the Society of Artists, the Contemporary Group and at the Macquarie Galleries in the 1930s.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Rachel Roxburgh BEM (1915-1991), artist, educator, conservationist, and heritage campaigner, was born in Sydney and studied at East Sydney Technical College and the Adelaide Perry Art School in the early 1930s. Subsequently, she exhibited with the Contemporary Group, the Society of Artists and at the Macquarie Galleries, and in 1940 organised an exhibition in aid of the Sydney Artists’ and Journalists’ Fund. During World War II she joined a Voluntary Aid Detachment and qualified as a nurse at Sydney Hospital. After the war she spent time in Europe, furthering her studies at the London Central and Hammersmith Art Schools and travelling and sketching in France, Italy, Spain and south-west England. She held her first solo exhibition after returning to Sydney in 1956 and the same year became a member of the newly-formed Potters Society with whom she also exhibited. During the same period she joined the National Trust of Australia (NSW), later becoming a member of its council (1961-1976) and executive (1961-1963). She also served on the Trust’s women’s committee and as a member of the survey committee worked to identify and classify the colonial architectural heritage of New South Wales. A school art teacher for over twenty years, Roxburgh also wrote several articles and books on colonial Australian architecture.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Joy Hester (Australian, 1920-1960) 'Pauline McCarthy' 1945

 

Joy Hester (Australian, 1920-1960)
Pauline McCarthy
1945
Oil on cardboard
45.7 x 26.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
June Sherwood Bequest, 2021
© Joy Hester Estate/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

 

Joy Hester is known for her distinctive style of portraiture, charged with great emotion and dramatic feeling. Hester’s preferred techniques were drawing and brush and ink, and this portrait of Pauline McCarthy is a rare painting in oils by the artist. From 1938 until 1947 Hester was part of the circle of artists now known as the Angry Penguins and was associated with the group who gathered at the home of Sunday and John Reed. Hester was also a regular visitor to Pauline and Jack McCarthy’s Fitzroy bookshop and private lending library, Kismet. When Hester was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease at the age of twenty-seven, McCarthy provided her with both emotional and physical support. Hester died from the illness at forty years of age.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Sybil Craig (England 1901 - Australia 1909, Australia from 1902) 'Peggy' c. 1932

 

Sybil Craig (England 1901 – Australia 1909, Australia from 1902)
Peggy
c. 1932
Oil on canvas
40.4 x 30.4cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, 1978
© The Estate of Sybil Craig

 

Constance Stokes (Australian, 1906-1991) 'Portrait of a woman in a green dress' 1930 (installation view)

 

Constance Stokes (Australian, 1906-1991)
Portrait of a woman in a green dress (installation view)
1930
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Bequest of Michael Niall, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at second left, Polly Borland’s HM Queen Elizabeth II (2002, below); at second right, Atong Atem’s Adut (2015, below); and at right, Treahna Hamm’s Barmah Forest breastplate (2005)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Polly Borland (Australia, b. 1959, England 1989-2011, United States from 2011) 'HM Queen Elizabeth II' 2002

 

Polly Borland (Australia, b. 1959, England 1989-2011, United States from 2011)
HM Queen Elizabeth II
2002
Type C photograph on paper
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2002
© Polly Borland. Reproduced courtesy of Polly Borland and Anna Schwartz Gallery

 

Atong Atem (South Sudanese born Ethiopia, b. 1994) 'Adut' 2015, printed 2019

 

Atong Atem (South Sudanese born Ethiopia, b. 1994)
Adut
2015, printed 2019
From the Studio series 2015
Digital type C print
Image: 59.4 x 84.1cm
Sheet: 63.6 x 92.7cm
ed. 3/10
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2019
© Atong Atem, courtesy Mars Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

‘The Studio series … has developed into an exploration of my blackness and my identity and culture through African cultural iconography, black visual languages, and diasporic traditions represented in the act of posing for a photograph. The photos are traditional, staged studio photographs similar to those found in my family albums and the photo albums of many people in the diaspora – they’re bright, colourful and depict a very precarious moment in African history between traditionalism and cultural changes brought on by colonialism … This Studio series responds to the ethnographic gaze of colonial photographs of black people and speaks to the importance of creating and owning one’s own narrative and depictions.’ ~ Atong Atem, 2019

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Vincent Namatjira (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1983) 'Australia in black and white' 2018 (installation view)

Vincent Namatjira (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1983) 'Australia in black and white' 2018 (installation view)

 

Vincent Namatjira (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1983)
Australia in black and white (installation views)
2018
Ink on paper
(a-p) 56.0 x 38.0cm (each)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2019
© Vincent Namatjira/Copyright Agency, Australia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

I’m interested in people and their stories, and how someone from today is connected with the past. I like to paint people who are famous, and paint them here in my community. Painting them in the desert puts them into an unexpected place. Having just a little bit of humour can take the power out of a serious situation, whether something is happening to you right now, or it happened long ago – it lets you be in a little bit of control again, you can get a bit of cheeky revenge. A sense of humour and a paintbrush is a powerful thing.’ ~ Vincent Namatjira

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Vincent Namatjira (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1983) 'Australia in black and white' 2018 (detail)

 

Vincent Namatjira (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1983)
Australia in black and white (detail)
2018
Ink on paper
(a-p) 56.0 x 38.0cm (each)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2019
© Vincent Namatjira/Copyright Agency, Australia

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing centre on the pedestal, Charles Summers’ Edmund FitzGibbon and Sarah FitzGibbon (1877); at left, Howard Arkley’s Nick Cave (1999, below); at second left, Julie Dowling’s Federation 1901-2001 series (2001, below and at second right, Julie Rrap’s Persona and shadow: Madonna (1984, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969) 'Federation series: 1901-2001' 2001 (installation view)

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969) 'Federation series: 1901-2001' 2001 (installation view)

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969)
Federation series: 1901-2001 (installation views)
2001
synthetic polymer paint, earth pigments, metallic paint and glitter on canvas
(1) 60.3 × 50.5cm (Melbin 1901-1910)
(2) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Uncle Sam 1910-1920)
(3) 60.2 × 50.4cm (Auntie Dot 1920-1930)
(4) 60.3 × 50.5cm (Ruby 1930-1940)
(5) 60.2 × 50.5cm (Mollie 1940-1950)
(6) 60.4 × 50.5cm (George 1950-1960)
(7) 60.3 × 50.4cm (Nan 1960-1970)
(8) 60.3 × 50.4cm (Ronnie 1970-1980)
(9) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Carol 1980-1990)
(10) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Julie 1990-2001)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of Rupert Myer, Governor, 2001
© Julie Dowling/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Julie Dowling’s Federation series: 1901-2001 is a series of history paintings produced in response to the Centenary of Federation. The work registers Dowling’s dismay that the Australian Constitution did not included First Nations people when the country was declared a Federation. The narrative cycle of ten canvases, each symbolising a particular diva, presents a profound and multidimensional First Peoples history of the twentieth century. Like a family tree of resilience, the series portrays the faces of ten individual members of Dowling’s family, each affected by policies and events of history.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969) 'Federation series: 1901-2001' 2001

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969)
Federation series: 1901-2001
2001
synthetic polymer paint, earth pigments, metallic paint and glitter on canvas
(1) 60.3 × 50.5cm (Melbin 1901-1910)
(2) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Uncle Sam 1910-1920)
(3) 60.2 × 50.4cm (Auntie Dot 1920-1930)
(4) 60.3 × 50.5cm (Ruby 1930-1940)
(5) 60.2 × 50.5cm (Mollie 1940-1950)
(6) 60.4 × 50.5cm (George 1950-1960)
(7) 60.3 × 50.4cm (Nan 1960-1970)
(8) 60.3 × 50.4cm (Ronnie 1970-1980)
(9) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Carol 1980-1990)
(10) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Julie 1990-2001)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of Rupert Myer, Governor, 2001
© Julie Dowling/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969) 'Julie' 2001

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969)
Julie
2001
From the Federation series: 1901-2001 2001
synthetic polymer paint, earth pigments, metallic paint and glitter on canvas
60.4 × 50.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of Rupert Myer, Governor, 2001
© Julie Dowling/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969) 'Nan' 2001 (detail)

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969)
Nan (detail)
2001
From the Federation series: 1901-2001 2001
synthetic polymer paint, earth pigments, metallic paint and glitter on canvas
60.4 × 50.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of Rupert Myer, Governor, 2001
© Julie Dowling/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at second left, Brenda L. Croft‘s Matilda (Ngambri) (2020, below); at third right, William Buelow Gould‘s John Eason (1838); at second right, Augustus Earle‘s Captain Richard Brooks (1826-1827); and at right, Augustus Earle‘s Mrs Richard Brooks (1826-1827)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brenda L. Croft (Anglo-Australian / Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra, b. 1964) Prue Hazelgrove (wet plate collodion process technical assistant) Richard Crampton (printer) 'Matilda (Ngambri)' 2020 (installation view detail)

 

Brenda L. Croft (Anglo-Australian / Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra, b. 1964)
Prue Hazelgrove (wet plate collodion process technical assistant)
Richard Crampton (printer)
Matilda (Ngambri) (installation view detail)
2020
From the Naabami (Thou shall/will see): I am/we are Barangaroo series
Inkjet print (from original tintype, wet plate collodion process) on archival paper, ed. 4/5 + 3 A/P
Image: 119.7 x 90.9cm
Sheet: 140.3 x 99.9cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds provided by The Calvert-Jones Foundation 2020
© Brenda L. Croft/Copyright Agency, 2022
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ngambri woman, Dr Matilda House, is an activist who has dedicated her life to the pursuit of social justice and equity for First Nations peoples since the 1960s. Dr House is renowned for her work in establishing the Aboriginal Legal Service in Queanbeyan and her ongoing support for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Using a photographic technique known as a collodion wet plate process, Dr Brenda L. Croft created a powerful series honouring the spirit of Cammeraygal woman, Barangaroo (c. 1750-1791) – one of the Eora Nations earliest influential figures. This portrait of Dr House forms part of the suite, and like Barangaroo, her resilience, cultural authority and fiercely held connection to place continues to inspire many contemporary First Nations women.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Brenda L. Croft (Anglo-Australian / Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra, b. 1964) Prue Hazelgrove (wet plate collodion process technical assistant) Richard Crampton (printer) 'Matilda (Ngambri)' 2020

 

Brenda L. Croft (Anglo-Australian / Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra, b. 1964)
Prue Hazelgrove (wet plate collodion process technical assistant)
Richard Crampton (printer)
Matilda (Ngambri)
2020
From the Naabami (Thou shall/will see): I am/we are Barangaroo series
Inkjet print (from original tintype, wet plate collodion process) on archival paper, ed. 4/5 + 3 A/P
Image: 119.7 x 90.9cm
Sheet: 140.3 x 99.9cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds provided by The Calvert-Jones Foundation 2020
© Brenda L. Croft/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, William Buelow Gould‘s John Eason (1838); at centre, Augustus Earle‘s Captain Richard Brooks (1826-1827); and at right, Augustus Earle‘s Mrs Richard Brooks (1826-1827)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at second left background, AñA Wojak‘s Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden (1991, below); at centre background, Julie Rrap‘s Persona and shadow: Madonna (1984, below); and at centre on pedestal, Charles SummersEdmund FitzGibbon and Sarah FitzGibbon (1877)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at centre on pedestal, Charles SummersEdmund FitzGibbon and Sarah FitzGibbon (1877); at centre background, AñA Wojak‘s Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden (1991, below); and at right, Julie Rrap‘s Persona and shadow: Madonna (1984, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

AñA Wojak (Australian, b. 1954) 'Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden' 1991 (installation view)

 

AñA Wojak (Australian, b. 1954)
Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden (installation view)
1991
Oil and gold leaf on cedar panel
Support: 121.5 x 103.0cm
Gift of Lesley Saddington 2015
© AñA Wojak
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

AñA Wojak describes themselves as a ‘cross-disciplinary artist working in performance, painting, assemblage, installation and theatre design, with a particular interest in site-specificity, ritual and altered states’. Born in Australia, they studied in Gdansk, Poland in the period of martial law, attaining a master’s degree in fine arts in 1983. Wojak has been an Archibald finalist twice, a Portia Geach finalist several times and a Sculpture by the Sea finalist four times; they won the Blake Prize for religious art in 2004.

Anthony Carden (1961-1995), activist, studied acting in New York in the early 1980s before returning home to work in theatre, film and television in Sydney and Melbourne. After being diagnosed with AIDS, he joined ACTUP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and became a lobbyist for better standards of medical care, improved hospital facilities, and effective safe sex education. An activist against discrimination in all its forms, he was a prominent advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS. With Clover Moore, then the Member for Bligh in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, he helped raise $1 million for the refurbishment of St Vincent’s Hospital’s Ward 17 South, Australia’s first dedicated ward for HIV/AIDS patients. He died five years after his diagnosis.

AñA Wojak met Carden at an ACTUP meeting in 1991, at which time the artist had begun working on a series exploring ideas of sainthood and martyrdom. Wojak painted Carden in the guise of Saint Acacius, an early Christian martyr, as he was ‘someone who was working for the rights of others whilst at the same time suffering himself’. Employing gold leaf and a blue paint derived from lapis lazuli, the work is intended to evoke Byzantine icons and Italian Renaissance altarpieces. The portrait was displayed in Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS at the National Gallery of Australia in 1994-1995; at Carden’s wake; and later in Ward 17 South before being purchased by Carden’s mother, Lesley Saddington.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd updated 2021 [Online] Cited 02/07/2022

 

AñA Wojak (Australian, b. 1954) 'Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden' 1991

 

AñA Wojak (Australian, b. 1954)
Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden
1991
Oil and gold leaf on cedar panel
Support: 121.5 x 103.0cm
Gift of Lesley Saddington 2015
© AñA Wojak

 

Julie Rrap. 'Persona and shadow: Madonna' 1984

 

Julie Rrap (Australian, b. 1950)
Persona and shadow: Madonna
1984
Cibachrome photograph
Image and sheet: 194.7 × 104.6cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Michell Endowment, 1984
© Julie Rrap

 

 

Julie Rrap dissects and subverts conventional visions of women in art history, so often depicted as ‘the Madonna’. This work is from a series called Persona and Shadow in which Rrap responded to her experience of seeing so few women artists represented in major contemporary art shows in Europe during the early 1980s. Rap takes outlines from work by Edvard Munch and incorporates a fractured photographic self-portrait. Her resulting vision personally and powerfully counters the dominant narrative of women in the art world.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at second left, John Citizen’s Eddie Mabo (after Mike Kelley’s ‘Booth’s Puddle’ 1985, from Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile) No. 3 (1996, below); at third right, TextaQueen’s Creature from the Black Platoon starring Gary Foley 2011 (2011, below); and at right, Guido Maestri’s Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (2009, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

John Citizen (Gordon Bennett, Australian 1955-2014) 'Eddie Mabo (after Mike Kelley's 'Booth's Puddle' 1985, from Plato's Cave, Rothko's Chapel, Lincoln's Profile) No. 3' 1996 (installation view)

 

John Citizen (Gordon Bennett, Australian 1955-2014)
Eddie Mabo (after Mike Kelley’s ‘Booth’s Puddle’ 1985, from Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile) No. 3 (installation view)
1996
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Support: 168.0 x 152.5cm
Purchased with funds provided by L Gordon Darling AC CMG 1999
© Gordon Bennett Estate
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

John Citizen is the artistic alter ego of Australian artist Gordon Bennett (1955-2014), painter and multi-media artist, addressed issues of identity and power in a postcolonial context. Within two years of graduating from the Queensland College of Art in 1988 he was awarded the prestigious Moët and Chandon Fellowship. He had numerous solo exhibitions and was represented in many travelling exhibitions within Australia and overseas. Of indigenous Australian and Anglo-Celtic descent, he was concerned with the use of language in delineating ethnocentric boundaries, viewing his work as ‘history painting’ in that it indicated the ways in which history is constructed after the event. Bennett is represented under both John Citizen and Gordon Bennett in many state, regional and tertiary collections.

Koiki (Eddie) Mabo (1937-1992), Torres Strait Islander man, initiated a legal case for native title against the State of Queensland in 1982. Along with his fellow Meriam people, Mabo was convinced that he owned his family’s land on Murray Island (Mer) in Torres Strait. By contrast, Queensland Crown lawyers argued that on annexation in 1879, all the land had become the property of the Crown. In 1992, the seven Justices of the High Court found 6-1 in favour of Mabo and his co-plaintiffs, overturning the accepted view that Australia had been terra nullius (empty land) before white settlement. Mabo died before the historic decision, which was to lead to the Land Title Act of 1993, and permanently to alter the way Australians think about Aboriginal land ownership.

John Citizen is the artistic alter ego of Australian artist Gordon Bennett (1955-2014). Bennett, who worked under his own name and that of John Citizen, grew up in Nambour, Queensland and only learned of his mother’s Indigenous heritage in his early teens. He went to art school as a mature student. Stating early in his career that ‘the bottom line of my work is coming to terms with my Aboriginality,’ he continued to engage with questions of cultural and personal identity, interrogating Australia’s colonial past and postcolonial present through a succession of allusive postmodern works. He won the John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1997, and the NGV mounted a touring exhibition, Gordon Bennett, in 2007-2008. Bennett said that when he began to think about Eddie Mabo he ‘could not think of him as a real person … I only [knew] the Eddie Mabo of the “mainstream” news media, a very two-dimensional “copy” of the man himself.’ In making his portrait of Mabo, he used a newspaper image and headlines from newspaper articles about the Native Title furore, and combined them with an image by the American artist Mike Kelley. ‘To me the image of Eddie Mabo stood like the eye of a storm,’ Bennett said, ‘calmly asserting his rights while all around him the storm, a war of words and rhetoric, raged.’

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd updated 2020 [Online] Cited 02/07/2022

 

TextaQueen (Australian, b. 1975) 'Creature from the Black Platoon starring Gary Foley 2011' 2011 (installation view)

 

TextaQueen (Australian, b. 1975)
Creature from the Black Platoon starring Gary Foley 2011 (installation view)
2011
From the series We don’t need another hero
Fibre-tipped pen on paper
Frame: 119.0 x 135.0cm
Sheet: 97.5 x 127.2cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2011
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Through a series of fictional movie posters, TextaQueen explores a re-writing of colonial history by subverting roles of power. This work combines film posters to subvert the original leading white film cast, creating a mash-up of Gary Foley as a powerful Blak militia. Foley is a renowned Indigenous activist, known for his involvement in the black Power Movement in Australia, which saw the formation of the Aboriginal Legal Service and Medical Service Redfern in the 1970s to counter the problem of police harassment. Here, TextQueen poses Foley as an outlaw of his post-apocalypse, representing him as a survivor while simultaneously creating a platform for the Indigenous experiences of colonisation and racism to be acknowledged and recognised.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Gary Foley (b. 1950) Indigenous activist and historian, has written extensively on Indigenous political movements and maintains the Koori History Website, an intensive history archive and education resource. Of Gumbainggir descent, at seventeen Foley moved from his native Grafton to Sydney. There, inspired by the biography of African-American human rights activist Malcolm X, he was instrumental in establishing Sydney’s Aboriginal Legal Service and Aboriginal Medical Service, and in 1972 he came to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra. The first Indigenous Director of the Aboriginal Arts Board, he was Senior Curator for Southeastern Australia at Museum Victoria from 2001 to 2005. Since 2005 Foley has lectured and undertaken postgraduate research at the University of Melbourne.

TextaQueen’s (b. 1975) portrait of Gary Foley is from a series featuring ‘people of colour as outlaws of their post-apocalypse, drawn as if posters for fictional movies. As an artist of colour … I’ve sought out peers from various sociocultural and racial backgrounds to propose characters, costumes, and fictional surrounds to represent themselves as survivors of their Armageddon.’ Gary Foley launched the exhibition of the series in Melbourne.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 02/07/2022

 

Guido Maestri (Australian, b. 1974) 'Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu' 2009 (installation view)

 

Guido Maestri (Australian, b. 1974)
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (installation view)
2009
Oil on linen
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2011
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Born blind, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (1970-2017), was a talented musician with an extraordinary voice. Gurrumul was a self-taught instrumentalist, playing guitar, piano, drunks and yidaki. Growing up on the remote island of Gallwin’ku (Elcho Island), Gurrumul was taught all Yolngu culture in song, dance, art and ceremony. His gentle songs draw reference to these teachings of sacred animals, the sea and seasons, ancestors and reverence for the land. Guido Maestri’s portrait of the musician was created after the artist saw Gurrumul perform in Sydney on New Year’s Eve 2008. Using just one colour and applied by building upon layers of thin oil paint, this portrait plays homage ad respect to one of Australia’s most influential musicians.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Guido Maestri (Australian, b. 1974) 'Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu' 2009

 

Guido Maestri (Australian, b. 1974)
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
2009
Oil on linen
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2011
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Arthur, Wik elder’, from the series ‘Returning to places that name us’ 2000

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian / Big River/Ben Lomond, b. 1953)
Arthur, Wik elder
2000
From the series Returning to places that name us
Gelatin silver photograph
96.1 × 121.3cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Milton and Penny Harris, 2007

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953) 'Gladys Tybingoomba' 2001

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian / Big River/Ben Lomond, b. 1953)
Wik Elder, Gladys Tybingoomba
2000
From the series Returning to places that name us
Gelatin silver photograph
95.5 × 123.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Milton and Penny Harris, 2007

 

 

These intimate portraits of Wik Elders from the community of Aurukun, Far North Queensland, were inspired by the hard-fought battle for custodianship and recognition of the Wik people’s connection to traditional land and waterways. In this image, Maynard documents cultural leader and activist Gladys Tybingoompa, who is remembered today as a prolific figure in the Wik vs Queensland Case and a trailblazer for Indigenous land rights across Australia.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Peter Corlett’s The connoisseur II (1984); at second left, Howard Arkley’s Nick Cave (1999, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Howard Arkley (Australia 1951-1999) 'Nick Cave' 1999

 

Howard Arkley (Australia 1951-1999)
Nick Cave
1999
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
175.2 x 135.2 x 4.3cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned with funds provided by L Gordon Darling AC CMG 1999
© Estate of Howard Arkley. Licensed by Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957) 'The surfers' 1989 (installation view)

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957)
The surfers (installation view)
1989
Type C photograph
76.4 x 92.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1991
© Anne Zahalka/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Anne Zahalka is best known for her photographs that address issues such as racial stereotyping, gender and difference. Using images largely drawn from art historical sources to create elaborately constructed sets, Zahalka’s work raises questions about identity, place and nationhood. The daughter of European immigrants displaced during the war, themes of belonging and national identity are intrinsic to Zahalka’s practice, allowing her to comment on the changing role migration and multiculturalism have had in Australia throughout history. The surfers challenge stereotypical representations of Australian beach-goers, presenting them against a painted backdrop of surf and sand.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957) 'The surfers' 1989

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957)
The surfers
1989
Type C photograph
76.4 x 92.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1991
© Anne Zahalka/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960) 'The Movie Star (David Gulpilil)' 1985

 

Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960)
The Movie Star (David Gulpilil)
1985
Type C photograph on paper
Image: 50.7 x 77.3cm
Frame: 74.5 x 99.0cm
Gift of the artist 1998. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
© Tracey Moffatt

 

 

One of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, Tracey Moffatt grew up in Brisbane and moved to Sydney after studying at the Queensland College of Art. She worked in photography, video and filmmaking, helped establish the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, and was part of the group of creatives engaged in reshaping the representation of First Nations peoples in the visual and performing arts. When Moffatt photographed him in 1985, Yolngu man David Gulpilil AM (1953-2021) had already appeared in several major film and television productions, including Walkabout (1971), Storm Boy (1976), The Last Wave (1977) and The Timeless Land (1980). This portrait of him was shown in NADOC ’86, which Wiradjuri / Kamilaroi artist Michael Riley described as the first exhibition where Aboriginal artists ‘were dictating … how they wanted to show images of their own people.’ Moffatt’s image of Gulpilil lazing at Bondi Beach might seem benignly tongue-in-cheek, but in fact makes an incisive reference to colonialism and the dispossession on which Australia’s supposedly egalitarian, laid-back lifestyle is based.

This work and Moffatt’s portrait of Nunukul and Yugambeh dancer Russell Page (1968-2002) were the first two photographs acquired by the National Portrait Gallery.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 02/07/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing photographs from Brenda L. Croft's 'A man about town' series 2004

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing photographs from Brenda L. Croft’s A man bout town series (2004, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brenda L. Croft (Australian / Gurindji/Mutpurra, b. 1965) 'A hostile landscape' 2003, printed 2004 (installation view)

 

Brenda L. Croft (Australian / Gurindji/Mutpurra, b. 1965)
A hostile landscape (installation view)
2003, printed 2004
From A man about town series 2004
84.0 × 124.8cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2004
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Brenda Croft stumbled upon the two photographs A hostile landscape and A man about town in 1997, while sorting the material possessions of her late father. As Croft has written, ‘I carried these images around in my mind for the next seven years, returning to them often and wondering about the city and countryscapes, the period in which they were set and the anonymous people in them’. The two photographs show Croft’s father as a solitary figure in the urban landscape. These depictions contrast with typical representations of the ‘businessman’ within society, which portray a white, middle-class man. These photographs also work to reposition prevailing imagery of Aboriginal Australians living purely in remote areas, as opposed to city environments.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Brenda L. Croft (Australian / Gurindji/Mutpurra, b. 1965) 'A man about town' 2003

 

Brenda L. Croft (Australian / Gurindji/Mutpurra, b. 1965)
A man about town
2003, printed 2004
From A man about town series 2004
84.0 × 124.8cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2004

 

Edward Schafer & Co., Melbourne (retailer) 'Belt buckle' c. 1900

 

Edward Schafer & Co., Melbourne (retailer)
Belt buckle
c. 1900
15 ct gold, garnets, enamel
(a-b) 6.2 x 8.3 x 1.8cm (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Altmann Collection of Australian Silver
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by John and Jan Altmann, Founder Benefactors, 1986

 

Michael Riley (Australian / Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi, 1960-2004) 'Maria' 1986, printed 2013

 

Michael Riley (Australian / Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi, 1960-2004)
Maria
1986, printed 2013
From the Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990 series
Inkjet print on paper
39.1 x 40.9cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra.
Purchased 2013
© Michael Alan Riley/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970) Trent Walter (printer) (Australian, b. 1980) 'Marcia Langton' 2009

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Trent Walter (printer) (Australian, b. 1980)
Marcia Langton
2009
Screenprint on paper
252.0 x 242.0 x 7.1cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned with funds provided by Marilyn Darling AC 2009
© Brook Andrew/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

John Nixon (Australian, b. 1949) 'Self Portrait (non-objective composition) (yellow cross)' 1990

 

John Nixon (Australian, b. 1949)
Self Portrait (non-objective composition) (yellow cross)
1990
Enamel paint on plywood
177.6 x 165.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Chase Manhattan Overseas Corporation, Fellow, 1991
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

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31
May
15

Exhibition: ‘The photograph and Australia’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 21st March – 8th June 2015

Curator: Judy Annear, Senior curator of photographs, AGNSW

 

 

Judy Annear. 'The photograph and Australia'. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2015. p. 236

 

Judy Annear. The photograph and Australia. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2015. p. 236

 

 

“Cultural theorist Ross Gibson has written that ‘being Australian might actually mean being untethered or placeless … and appreciating how to live in dynamic patterns of time rather than native plots of space’. Photographs always enable imaginative time and space regardless of their size and how little we might know of the ostensible subject. When people are oriented toward the camera and photographer, there is a gap which the viewer intuitively recognises. The gap is time as much as space. Occasionally – as in an anonymous 1855 daguerreotype taken at Ledcourt, Victoria, of Isabella Carfrae on horseback where we see a servant standing on the verandah, shading her eyes, and in the 1877 Fred Kruger photograph of the white-clad cricketer at Coranderrk – a subject in the photograph presses so close to the picture plane that we know for the time of the exposure they look directly into an unknowable future and collide now with our gaze as we look back.”

.
Judy Annear. “Time,” in Judy Annear. ‘The photograph and Australia’. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2015. p. 19.

 

 

This is an important exhibition and book by Judy Annear and team at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, an investigation into the history of Australian photography that is worthy of the subject. Unfortunately, I could not get to Sydney to see the exhibition and I have only just received the catalogue. I have started reading it with gusto. With regard to the exhibition all I have to go on is a friend of mine who went to see the exhibition, and whose opinion I value highly, who said that is was the messiest exhibition that she had seen in a long while, and that for a new generation of people approaching this subject matter for the first time it’s non-chronological nature would have been quite off putting. But this is the nature of the beast (that being a thematic not chronological approach) and personally I believe that modern audiences are a lot more understanding of what was going on in the exhibition than she would give them credit for.

In the “Introduction” to the book, Annear rightly credits the work undertaken by colleagues – especially Gael Newton’s Shades of light: photography and Australia 1839-1988, published in 1988; Alan Davis’ The mechanical eye in Australia: photography 1841-1900, published in 1977; and Helen Ennis’ Photography and Australia, published in 2007. As the latter did, this new book “emphasises the ways in which photographs, especially in the nineteenth century, function in social, cultural and political contexts, exploring photography’s role in representing relationships between Indigenous and settler cultures, the construction of Australia, and its critique.” (Annear, p. 10)

While Ennis’ book took a chronological approach, with sections titled First Photographs, Black to Blak, Land and Landscape, Being Modern, Made in Australia, Localism and Internationalism, The Presence of the Past – Annear’s book takes a more conceptual, thematic approach, one that crosses time and space, linking past and present work in classificatory sections titled Time, Nation, People, Place and Transmission. Both books acknowledge the key issues that have to be dealt with when formulating a book on the photograph and Australia: “the medium itself, Australia’s history, and the relationship between them. Is Australian photography different? If so, how, and in relation to what? One has to look at places with not dissimilar histories, such as Canada and New Zealand. And other questions: what has preoccupied photographers working in relation to Australia at various points in time? Have their concerns been primarily commercial, aesthetic, historical, realist, interpretive, or theoretical? Have they developed projects unique to the photographic medium; for example, large-scale classificatory projects? What have they achieved, what did it mean then, and what does it mean now?” (Annear, p.10)

These questions are the nexus of Annear’s investigation and she seeks to answer them in the well researched chapters that follow, while being mindful of “preserving some of the slipperiness of the medium.” And there is the rub. In order to define these classificatory sections in the exhibition and book, it would seem to me that Annear shoehorns these themes onto the fluid, mutable state of “being” of the photograph, imposing classifications to order the mass of photography into bite sized entities. While “the book encourages the reader to explore connections – between different forms of photography, people and place, past and present” it also, inevitably, imposes a reading on these historical photographs that would not have been present at the time of their production.

The press release for the book says, “The photograph and Australia investigates how photography was harnessed to create the idea of a nation.” Now I find the use of that word “harnessed” – as in control and make use of – to be hugely problematic. Personally, I don’t think that the slipperiness and mutability of photography can ever be controlled by anyone to help create the idea (imagination?) of a nation. Nations build nations, not photography. As a friend of mine said to me, it’s a long bow to draw… and I would agree. The crux of the matter is that THERE ARE NO HANDLES, only the ones that we impose, later, from a distance. There is no definitive answer to anything, there are always twists and turns, always another possibility of how we look at things, of the past in the present.

Photography and photographs, “with its ability to capture both things of the world and those of the imagination,” are always unstable (which is why the photograph can still induce A SENSE OF WONDER) – always uncertain in their interpretation, then and now. Photographs do not belong to a dimension or a classification of time and space because you feel their being NOT their (historical) consequence. Hence, all of these classifications are essentially the same/redundant. Perhaps it’s only semantics, but I think the word “utilises” – make practical and effective use of – would be a better word in terms of Annear’s enquiries. It also occurred to me to turn the question around: instead of “how photography was harnessed to create the idea of a nation”; instead, “how the idea of a nation helped change photography.” Think about it.

Finally, a comment on the book itself. Beautifully printed, of a good size and weight, the paper stock is of excellent quality and thickness. The type is simple and legible and the book is lavishly illustrated with photographs. The reproductions are a little ‘flat’ but the main point of concern is the size of the reproductions. Instead of reproducing carte de visite at 1:1 scale (that is, 64 mm × 100 mm), their mounted on card size – they are reproduced at 40 mm x 68 mm (see p. 236 of the catalogue below). Small enough already, this printing size renders the detailed reading of the images almost impossible. Worse, the images are laid out horizontally on a vertical page, with no size attribution of the original, nor whether they are 1/9th, 1/6th daguerreotype’s or ambrotypes, CDV’s or cabinet cards next to the image.

The reproduction size of the daguerreotypes and ambrotypes is even worse, making the images almost unreadable. For example, in an excellent piece of writing at the end of the first chapter, “Time”, Annear refers to “an anonymous 1855 daguerreotype taken at Ledcourt, Victoria, of Isabella Carfrae on horseback where we see a servant standing on the verandah, shading her eyes,”. In the image in this posting (below) we can clearly see this woman standing on the verandah, but in the reproduction in the book (p. 139), she is reduced to a mere smudge in history, an invisibility caused by the size of the reproduction, thereby negating all that Annear comments upon. Instead of the “subject in the photograph presses so close to the picture plane that we know for the time of the exposure they look directly into an unknowable future and collide now with our gaze as we look back,” there is no pressing, hers has no presence, and our gaze cannot collide with this vision from the future past. Why designers of photographic books consistently fall prey to these traps is beyond me.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thank to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Australian scenery, Middle Harbour, Port Jackson' c. 1865

 

Unknown photographer
Australian scenery, Middle Harbour, Port Jackson
c. 1865
Carte de visite
Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of Josef & Jeanne Lebovic, Sydney 2014

 

Unknown photographer. 'Australian scenery, Middle Harbour, Port Jackson' (verso) c. 1865

 

Unknown photographer
Australian scenery, Middle Harbour, Port Jackson (verso)
c. 1865
Carte de visite
Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of Josef & Jeanne Lebovic, Sydney 2014

 

 

The first large-scale exhibition of its kind to be held in Australia in 27 years, The photograph and Australia presents more than 400 photographs from more than 120 artists, including Richard Daintree, Charles Bayliss, Frank Hurley, Harold Cazneaux, Olive Cotton, Max Dupain, Sue Ford, Carol Jerrems, Tracey Moffatt, Robyn Stacey, Ricky Maynard and Patrick Pound.

The works of renowned artists are shown alongside those of unknown photographers and everyday material, such as domestic and presentation albums. These tell peoples’ stories, illustrate where and how they lived, as well as communicate official public narratives. Sourced from more than 35 major collections across Australia and New Zealand, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia and the Australian Museum, The photograph and Australia uncovers hidden gems dating from 1845 until now.

A richly illustrated publication accompanies the exhibition, reflecting the exhibition themes and investigating how Australia itself has been shaped by photography.

 

Extract from “Introduction”

“The task of this book is to formulate questions around Australian photography and its history, regardless of Australia’s, and the medium’s, permeable identity. While early photography in Australia made histories of the colonies visible, and a great deal can be read from the surviving photographic archives, interpretation of this material is often conjecture, and much remains oblique. Patrick Pound describes the sheer mass of photographs and images in the world today as an “unhinged album.”11 This dynamic of making, accumulating, ordering, disseminating, reinterpreting, re-collecting and re-narrating is an important aspect of photography. The intimate relationship, historically, between the photograph and the various arts and sciences, along with the adaptability to technological change and imaginative interpretations, allows for a constant montaging or weaving together of uses and meanings. This works against the conventional linear structure of classical histories and the idea of any progressive evolution of the medium. If what we are dealing with is a phenomenon rather than simply a form then analysing the phenomenon and its dynamic relationship to art, society, peoples, sciences, genres, and processes is critical to our modern understanding of ourselves and our place in the world as well as of the medium itself.12

In the 1970s, cultural theorist Roland Barthes wrote an essay entitled The photographic message.13 While he focussed primarily on press photography and made a distinction between reportage and ‘artistic’ photography, his pinpointing of the special status of the photographic image as a message without a code – one could say, even, a face without a name – and his understanding of photography as a simultaneously objective and invested, natural and cultural, is relevant in the colonial and post-colonial context.

We search for clues in photographs of our past and present. In some ways this is a melancholy activity, in other ways valuable detective work. In many cases it is both. Photography since its inception has belonged in a nether world of being and not being, legibility and opacity. This book preserves some of the slipperiness of the medium, while providing a series of texts touching on the photographs at hand. The history of the photograph and its relationship to Australia remains tantalisingly partial; the ever-burgeoning archives await further excavation.”14

Judy Annear. “Introduction,” in Judy Annear. The photograph and Australia. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2015. p. 13.

 

11. See ‘Transmission’ pp. 227-33
12. See Geoffrey Batchen, A Subject For, A History About, Photography accessed 23 December 2021
13. Roland Barthes, ‘The photographic message’, Image, music, text, trans Stephen Heath, Flamingo, London, 1984, pp. 15-31
14. Parts of this Introduction were in a paper delivered at the symposium, Border-lands: photography & cultural contest, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 31 Mar 2012

 

Time

The relationship of the photograph to ‘Time’ is discussed in chapter one, which examines how contemporary artists such as Anne Ferran, Rosemary Laing and Ricky Maynard reinvent the past through photography. The activities of nineteenth-century photographers such as George Burnell and Charles Bayliss are also discussed… The manipulation by artists and photographers of imaginative time – the time of looking at the photographic image – allows for consideration of the nexus between space and time, how subjects can be momentarily tethered and, equally, how they can float free.

 

Nation

Chapter two considers the idea of ‘Nation’: looking at the public role of the photograph in representing Australia at world exhibitions before Federation in 1901. Photography in this period enabled new classificatory systems to come into existence… Of particular importance was the use of the photograph to cement Darwinistic views that determined racial hierarchies according to superficial physical differences. The photograph also advertised the growing colonies to potential migrants and investors through the depiction of landscapes and amenities.

 

People

The third chapter, ‘People’, analyses the uncertain post-colonial heritage that all Australian inherit and how that can be evidenced and examined in photographs. The chapter encompasses portraits by Tracy Moffatt and George Goodman, for example, and considerations of where and how people lived and chose to be photographed. These include the people of the Kulin nation of Victoria, those who resided at Poonindie Mission in South Australia, the Yued people living at New Norcia mission in Western Australia, as well as the Henty family in Victoria, the Mortlocks of South Australia, the children living at The Bungalow in Alice Springs and the people of Tumut in New South Wales.

 

Place

‘Place’ is examined in chapter four, particularly in terms of the use of photography to enable exploration, whether to Antarctica (Frank Hurley), to map stars and further the natural sciences (Henry Chamberlain Russell, Joseph Turner), or to open up ‘wilderness’ for tourism or mining (JW Beattie, Nicholas Caire, JW Lindt, Richard Daintree) … Photographs are examined as both documents and imaginative interpretations of activity and place.

 

Transmission

Chapter five, ‘Transmission’, considers the traffic in photographs and the fascination with the medium’s reproducibility and circulation… The evidential aspect of the photograph has proven to be fleeting and only tangentially related to the thing it traces. The possibility of being able to fully decipher a photograph’s meaning is remote, even when it has been promptly ordered and annotated in some form of album. Each photographic form expands the possibility of instant and easy communication, but the swarm of material serves only to prove the impossibility of order, classification, and accuracy. The photograph as an aestheticised object continues regardless of platform, and the imaginative possibilities of the medium have not been exhausted.

Sections from Judy Annear. “Introduction,” in Judy Annear. The photograph and Australia. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2015. p. 12.

 

Charles Bayliss. 'Group of local Aboriginal people, Chowilla Station, Lower Murray River, South Australia' 1886

 

Charles Bayliss
Group of local Aboriginal people, Chowilla Station, Lower Murray River, South Australia
1886
From the series New South Wales Royal Commission: Conservation of water. Views of scenery on the Darling and Lower Murray during the flood of 1886
Albumen photograph
Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 1984

 

 

This tableaux of Ngarrindjeri people fishing was carefully staged by photographer Charles Bayliss in 1886. Not just subjects, they actively participated in the photography process. It was observed at the time that the fishermen arranged themselves into position, with “the grace and unique character of which a skilful artist only could show.”

“In one extraordinary image created in 1886 by the photographer Charles Bayliss, the Ngarrindjeri people of the lower Murray River were active participants in the staging of a fishing scene. Writing in his journal, Bayliss’s companion Gilbert Parker noted: “Without a word of suggestion, these natives arranged themselves in a group, the grace and unique character of which a skilful artist only could show.” Annear says the image looks like a museum diorama to modern eyes. “But these people were very active in deciding how they wanted to be photographed,” she says. “They were determined to create an image they felt was appropriate.”

The first photographs of indigenous Australians were formal, posed portraits, taken in blazing sunlight. The sitters are often pictured leaning against each other (stillness was required for long exposure times) with eyes turned to the camera and bodies wrapped in blankets or kangaroo skins. Some wore headdresses or necklaces that may or may not have belonged to them.

“Indigenous Australians agreed to be photographed out of curiosity, or perhaps for food,” says Judy Annear, curator of The photograph and Australia, a major new photography exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. “In the past, it was considered that these sorts of early pictures were indicative of the colonial gaze. But now there is a lot of research going on into how these early photos were made. Often, the local people would have been invited to come into a studio and they were paid. They would have been dressed up and told what to do.””

Text in quotations from Elissa Blake. “Art Gallery of NSW photography exhibition: Stories told in black and white,” on the the Sydney Morning Herald website April 2, 2015 [Online] Cited 28/05/2015.

 

Ernest B Docker. 'The Three Sisters Katoomba – Mrs Vivian, Muriel Vivian and Rosamund 7 Feb 1898' 1898

 

Ernest B Docker (Australian, 1842-1923)
The Three Sisters Katoomba – Mrs Vivian, Muriel Vivian and Rosamund 7 Feb 1898
1898
Stereograph
Macleay Museum, The University of Sydney

 

Charles Nettleton (Australia 1825 – 1902) 'Untitled' 1867-1874

 

Charles Nettleton (Australian, 1825-1902)
Untitled
1867-1874
Carte de visite
6.2 x 9.1 cm image; 6.3 x 10.0 cm mount card
Purchased 2014
Art Gallery of New South Wales

 

 

Charles Nettleton was a professional photographer born in the north of England who arrived in Australia in 1854, settling in Melbourne. He joined the studio of Townsend Duryea and Alexander McDonald, where he specialised in outdoor photography. Nettleton is credited with having photographed the first Australian steam train when the private Melbourne-Sandridge (Port Melbourne) line was opened on 12 September 1854. Nettleton established his own studio in 1858, offering the first souvenir albums to the Melbourne public. He worked as an official photographer to the Victorian government and the City of Melbourne Corporation from the late 1850s to the late 1890s, documenting Melbourne’s growth from a colonial town to a booming metropolis. He photographed public buildings, sewerage and water systems, bridges, viaducts, roads, wharves, and the construction of the Botanical Gardens. In 1861 he boarded the ‘Great Britain’ to photograph the first English cricket team to visit Australia and in 1867 was appointed official photographer of the Victorian visit of the Duke of Edinburgh. For the Victorian police he photographed the bushranger Ned Kelly in 1880. This is considered to be the only genuine photograph of the outlaw.

 

Tracey Moffatt. 'I made a camera' 2003

 

Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960)
I made a camera
2003
Photolithograph
Collection of the artist
© Tracey Moffatt, courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

 

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is proud to present the major exhibition The photograph and Australia, which explores the crucial role photography has played in shaping our understandings of the nation. It will run from 21 March to 8 June 2015.

Tracing the evolution of the medium and its many uses from the 1840s until today, this is the largest exhibition of Australian photography held since 1988 that borrows from collections nationwide. It presents more than 400 photographs by more than 120 artists, including Morton Allport, Richard Daintree, Paul Foelsche, Samuel Sweet, JJ Dwyer, Charles Bayliss, Frank Hurley, Harold Cazneaux, Olive Cotton, Max Dupain, Sue Ford, Carol Jerrems, Tracey Moffatt, Robyn Stacey, Ricky Maynard, Anne Ferran and Patrick Pound.

Iconic images are shown alongside works by unknown and amateur photographers, including photographic objects such as cartes de visite, domestic albums and the earliest Australian X-rays. The exhibition’s curator – Judy Annear, senior curator of photographs, Art Gallery of NSW – said:

“Weaving together the multiple threads of Australia’s photographic history, The photograph and Australia investigates how photography invented modern Australia. It poses questions about how the medium has shaped our view of the world, ourselves and each other. Audiences are invited to experience the breadth of Australian photography, past and present, and the sense of wonder the photograph can still induce through its ability to capture both things of the world and the imagination.”

The exhibition brings together hundreds of photographs from more than 35 private and public collections across Australia, England and New Zealand, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia and the State Library of Victoria. Highlights include daguerreotypes by Australia’s first professional photographer, George Goodman, and recent works by Simryn Gill. From mass media’s evolution in the 19th century to today’s digital revolution, The photograph and Australia investigates how photography has been harnessed to create the idea of a nation and reveals how our view of the world, ourselves and each other has been changed by the advent of photography. It also explores how photography operates aesthetically, technically, politically and in terms of distribution and proliferation, in the Australian context.

Curated from a contemporary perspective, the exhibition takes a thematic rather than a chronological approach, looking at four interrelated areas: Aboriginal and settler relations; exploration (mining, landscape and stars); portraiture and engagement; collecting and distributing photography. A lavishly illustrated 308-page publication, The photograph and Australia (Thames & Hudson, RRP $75.00), accompanies the exhibition, reflecting its themes and investigating the medium’s relationship to people, place, culture and history.

Press release from the Art Gallery of New South Wales

 

David Moore (Australia 06 Apr 1927 – 23 Jan 2003) 'Migrants arriving in Sydney' 1966, printed later

 

David Moore (Australian, 1927-2003)
Migrants arriving in Sydney
1966, printed later
Gelatin silver photograph
30.2 x 43.5cm
Gift of the artist 1997
© Lisa, Karen, Michael and Matthew Moore

 

 

In this evocative image Moore condenses the anticipation and apprehension of immigrants into a tight frame as they arrive in Australia to begin a new life. The generational mix suggests family reconnections or individual courage as each face displays a different emotion.

Moore’s first colour image Faces mirroring their expectations of life in the land down under, passengers crowd the rail of the liner Galileo Galilei in Sydney Harbour was published in National Geographic in 1967.1 In that photograph the figures are positioned less formally and look cheerful. But it is this second image, probably taken seconds later, which Moore printed in black-and-white, that has become symbolic of national identity as it represents a time when Australia’s rapidly developing industrialised economy addressed its labour shortage through immigration. The strength of the horizontal composition of cropped figures underpinned by the ship’s rail is dramatised by the central figure raising her hand – an ambiguous gesture either reaching for a future or reconnecting with family. The complexity of the subject and the narrative the image implies ensured its public success, which resulted in a deconstruction of the original title, ‘European migrants’, by the passengers, four of whom it later emerged were Sydneysiders returning from holiday, alongside two migrants from Egypt and Lebanon.2 Unintentionally Moore’s iconic image has become an ‘historical fiction’, yet the passengers continue to represent an evolving Australian identity in relation to immigration.

1. Max Dupain and associates. Accessed 17/06/2006. No longer available online
2. Thomas D & Sayers A 2000, From face to face: portraits by David Moore, Chapter & Verse, Sydney

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

David Moore. 'Redfern Interior' 1949

 

David Moore (Australian, 1927-2003)
Redfern Interior
1949
Silver gelatin print
26.7 x 35.4cm
Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1985

 

 

David Moore’s career spanned the age of the picture magazines (for example: Life, Time, The Observer) through to major commissions such as the Sydney Opera House, CSR, and self initiated projects like To build a Bridge: Glebe Island. The breadth and depth of his career means there is an extraordinary archive of material which describes and interprets the last 50 years of Australian life, the life of the region, and events in Britain and the United States. He was instrumental in advancing Australian photography throughout his career and in the early 1970s was active in setting up the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney. From well-known images such as Migrants arriving in Sydney to Redfern interior, Moore has documented events and conditions in Sydney.

 

Charles Bayliss (England, Australia 1850 – 1897) Henry Beaufoy Merlin (England, Australia 1830 – 1873) 'Untitled' c. 1872

 

Charles Bayliss (England, Australia 1850-1897)
Henry Beaufoy Merlin (England, Australia 1830-1873)
Untitled
c. 1872
Albumen photograph
Dimensions
24.5 x 29.4cm image/sheet
Gift of Josef & Jeanne Lebovic, Sydney 2014

 

Paul Foelsche. 'Adelaide River' 1887

 

Paul Foelsche (Australian, 1831-1914)
Adelaide River
1887
Albumen photograph
Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of Josef & Jeanne Lebovic, Sydney 2014

 

 

This photo of people relaxing on the banks of the Adelaide River in the Northern Territory was taken by Paul Foelsche, a policeman and amateur anthropologist.

The collection of 19th century images brought together in The photograph and Australia show indigenous people in formal group portraits or as “exotic” subjects. They are photographed alongside early settlers, working as stockmen or holding tools. Amateur gentleman photographers such as the Scottish farmer John Hunter Kerr captured such images on his own property, Fernyhurst Station, in Victoria. Another amateur photographer, Paul Foelsche, the first policeman in the Northern Territory, took portraits of the Larrakia people, which have since become a priceless archive for their descendants.

 

NSW Government Printer. 'The General Post Office, Sydney' 1892–1900

 

NSW Government Printer
The General Post Office, Sydney
1892-1900
Albumen photograph
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, presented 1969

 

Melvin Vaniman. 'Panorama of intersection of Collins and Queen Streets, Melbourne' 1903

 

Melvin Vaniman (American, 1866-1912)
Panorama of intersection of Collins and Queen Streets, Melbourne
1903

 

 

Melvin Vaniman (American, 1866-1912)

Chester Melvin Vaniman (October 30, 1866 – July 2, 1912) was an American aviator and photographer who specialised in panoramic images. He shot images from gas balloons, ships masts, tall buildings and even a home-made 30-metre (98 ft) pole. He scaled buildings, hung from self-made slings, and scaled dangerous heights to capture his unique images.

Vaniman’s photographic career began in Hawaii in 1901, and ended some time in 1904. He spent over a year photographing Australia and New Zealand on behalf of the Oceanic Steamship Company, creating promotional images for the company, many as panoramas and which popularised the format in Australia, which was taken up with enthusiasm by Robert Vere Scott among others. During this time the New Zealand Government also commissioned panoramas.

Beginning in 1903, he spent over a year photographing Sydney and the surrounding areas. It was during this time that he created his best known work, the panorama of Sydney, shot from a hot air balloon he had specially imported from the United States. Vaniman is best known for his images of Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

J. W. Lindt (Germany 1845 – Australia from 1862, Australia 1926) 'Body of Joe Byrne, member of the Kelly gang, hung up for photography, Benalla' 1880

 

J. W. Lindt (Germany 1845 – Australia from 1862, Australia 1926)
Body of Joe Byrne, member of the Kelly gang, hung up for photography, Benalla
1880
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Australia’s first ever press photograph pushed boundaries few journalists would transgress today. Captured by J.W, Lindt in 1880, the photo shows the dead body of a member of Ned Kelly’s infamous gang, strung up on a door outside the jail house in Benalla in regional Victoria.

Joe Byrne died from loss of blood after being shot in the groin during the siege of Glenrowan pub. Another photographer is pictured mid-shot, while an illustrator walks away from the new technology with his hat on and portfolio tucked under his arm. “We see this as the first Australian press photograph. It has that spontaneity media photographs have, and it’s also very evocative with many different stories in it,” the gallery’s senior curator of photographs, Judy Annear, said.

Text from Rose Powell. “First Australian press photo shows body of Kelly Gang member Joe Byrne,” on the Sydney Morning Herald website March 20, 2015 [Online] Cited 30/05/2015.

 

Richard Daintree. 'Midday camp' 1864–70

 

Richard Daintree (Australian, 1832-1878)
Midday camp
1864-70
Albumen photograph, overpainted with oils
Queensland Museum, Brisbane

 

 

This image was an albumen photograph (using egg whites to bind chemicals to paper) which was then hand-coloured with oil paints to bring it to life. The photographer took it in the 1860s to advertise Australia as a land of opportunity.

 

Ricky Maynard. 'The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Ben Lomond, Tasmania , Cape Portland, Tasmania
The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania, from the series Portrait of a distant land
2005, printed 2009
Gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned
34.0 x 52.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors’ Group and the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2009

 

 

Ricky Maynard has produced some of the most compelling images of contemporary Aboriginal Australia over the last two decades. Largely self taught, Maynard began his career as a darkroom technician at the age of sixteen. He first established his reputation with the 1985 series Moonbird people, an intimate portrayal of the muttonbirding season on Babel, Big Dog and Trefoil Islands in his native Tasmania. The 1993 series No more than what you see documents Indigenous prisoners in South Australian gaols.

Maynard is a lifelong student of the history of photography, particularly of the great American social reformers Jacob Riis, Lewis Hines, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. Maynard’s images cut through the layers of rhetoric and ideology that inevitably couch black history (particularly Tasmanian history) to present images of experience itself. His visual histories question ownership; he claims that ‘the contest remains over who will image and own this history…we must define history, define whose history it is, and define its purpose as well as the tools used for the telling it’.

In Portrait of a distant land Maynard addresses the emotional connection between history and place. He uses documentary style landscapes to illustrate group portraits of Aboriginal peoples’ experiences throughout Tasmania. Each work combines several specific historical events, creating a narrative of shared experience – for example The Mission relies on historical records of a small boy whom Europeans christened after both his parents died in the Risdon massacre. This work highlights the disparity between written, oral and visual histories, as Maynard attempts to create ‘a combination of a very specific oral history as well as an attempt to show a different way of looking at history in general’.

 

JW Lindt. 'No 37 Bushman and an Aboriginal man' 1873

 

JW Lindt (Australian born Germany, 1845-1926)
No 37 Bushman and an Aboriginal man
1873
Albumen photograph
Grafton Regional Gallery Collection, Grafton, gift of Sam and Janet Cullen and family 2004

 

 

Professional photographers such as the Frankfurt-born John William Lindt (who became famous for photographing the capture of the Kelly Gang at Glenrowan in 1880) took carefully posed tableaux images in his Melbourne studio. One set of Lindt photographs, taken between 1873 and 1874, show settlers and indigenous people posing with the tools of their trade. One unusual image shows a settler holding a spear and a local man holding a rifle.

Annear says the photographs speak of a time when early settlers and indigenous people were engaged in an exchange of cultures. “These photos weren’t just a passive, one-way process,” Annear says. “It wasn’t just about capture and exoticism. We are finding contemporaneous accounts that point to a level of exchange going on that was extremely important. These photos show who those people were, where they lived and what they were doing. They have a very powerful presence in that regard, and Aboriginal people today are going back through these photographs in order to trace their family trees.” …

Annear says she could have put together an exhibition of images of the “great suffering” experienced by Aboriginal people in Australia, but chose not to. “I found the 19th century material so rich and strong and most people aren’t aware of these images. It seemed like a great opportunity to bring them forward,” she says. “I don’t want to whitewash history, but I do want people to see how rich life was, how people were adapting, and then how that was removed. After Federation and the White Australia policy and other assimilation policies, photos of indigenous people seem to disappear. Why did they disappear? The people were still here. They were greatly diminished in many senses, but nonetheless they were still here.”

Elissa Blake. “Art Gallery of NSW photography exhibition: Stories told in black and white,” on the Sydney Morning Herald website, April 2, 2015 [Online] Cited 30/05/2015

 

Charles Bayliss. 'Lawrence Hargrave trochoided plane model' 1884

 

Charles Bayliss (Australian born England, 1850-1897)
Lawrence Hargrave trochoided plane model
1884
Albumen photograph
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney, gift of Mr William Hudson Shaw 1994

 

Unknown photographer. 'Duryea Gallery, Grenfell Street, Adelaide' c. 1865

 

Unknown photographer
Duryea Gallery, Grenfell Street, Adelaide
c. 1865
Carte de visite
State Library of South Australia, Adelaide

 

JJ Dwyer. 'Kalgoorlie's first post office' c. 1900

 

J. J. Dwyer (Australian, 1869-1928)
Kalgoorlie’s first post office
c. 1900
Gelatin silver photograph
Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth
Photo: Acorn Photo, Perth

 

Harold Cazneaux. 'Spirit of endurance' 1937

 

Harold Cazneaux (Australian, 1878-1953)
Spirit of endurance
1937
Gelatin silver photograph
Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of the Cazneaux family 1975

 

Keast Burke (New Zealand, Australia 1896 - 1974) 'Husbandry 1' c. 1940

 

Keast Burke (New Zealand, Australia 1896-1974)
Husbandry 1
c. 1940
Gelatin silver photograph, vintage
30.5 x 35.5cm image/sheet
Gift of Iris Burke 1989

 

Eric Keast Burke (16 January 1896 – 31 March 1974) was a New Zealand-born photographer and journalist.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Isabella Carfrae on horseback, Ledcourt, Stawell, Victoria' c. 1855 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Isabella Carfrae on horseback, Ledcourt, Stawell, Victoria
c. 1855
Daguerreotype, hand-tinted
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2012

 

Unknown photographer. 'Isabella Carfrae on horseback, Ledcourt, Stawell, Victoria' c. 1855

 

Unknown photographer
Isabella Carfrae on horseback, Ledcourt, Stawell, Victoria
c. 1855
Daguerreotype, hand-tinted
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2012

 

 

“In the late 19th century, cameras were taking us both inside the human body and all the way to the moon. By the 1970s the National Gallery of Victoria had begun collecting photographic art, and within another decade the digital revolution was underway. But this exhibition – the largest display of Australian photography since Gael Newton mounted the 900-work Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1838-1988 at the National Gallery of Australia 27 years ago – is not chronological.

It opens with a salon hang of portraits of 19th and 20th century photographers, as if to emphasise their say in what we see, and continues with works grouped by themes: Aboriginal and settler relations; exploration; mining, landscape and stars; portraiture and engagement; collecting and distributing photography.

“A number of institutions and curators have tackled Australian photography from a chronological perspective and have done an extremely good job of it,” Annear says. “I have used their excellent research as a springboard into another kind of examination of the history of photography in this country. Nothing in photography was actually invented here, so I have turned it around and considered how photography invented Australia.”

Most of the photographs – about three quarters of the show, in fact – date from the first 60 years after Frenchman Louis Daguerre had his 1839 revelation about how to capture detailed images in a permanent form. Annear says the decades immediately following photography’s arrival in Australia provide a snapshot of all that has followed since.

“In terms of the digital revolution it is interesting to look back at the 19th century. What is going on now was all there then, it is just an expansion. There is a very clear trajectory from the birth of photography towards multiplication. After the invention of the carte de visite in the late 1850s they were made like there was no tomorrow. There are millions of cartes de visite in existence.”

There are quite a few of these small card-mounted photographs (the process was patented in Paris, hence the French) in the exhibition too, including one of a woman reflected in water at Port Jackson dating from circa 1865. With the trillions of images now in existence, it is easy to forget that once upon a time catching your reflection in the water, glass or a mirror was the only way to glimpse your own image (short of paying hefty sums for an artist to draw you).

After the invention of photography, people were quick to see how easily they could manipulate the impression created. While photographs are about fixing a moment in time, we can never be really sure just what it is they are fixing. “It’s not as simple as windows and mirrors – what we are looking at has always been constructed in some way,” Annear says. “What’s interesting about the medium is that you think it’s recording, fixing and capturing, but it is just creating an endless meditation on whatever a photograph’s relationship might be to whatever was real at the time it was taken.”

Extract from Megan Backhouse. “How the Photograph Shaped a Nation,” on the Art Guide Australia website, 20 April 2015 [Online] Cited 30/05/2015. No longer available online.

 

Sue Ford. 'Self-portrait' 1986

 

Sue Ford (Australian, 1943-2009)
Self-portrait
1986
From the series Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006) 2008
Colour Polaroid photograph
Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Paul & Valeria Ainsworth Charitable Foundation, Russell Mills, Mary Ann Rolfe, the Photography Collection Benefactors and the Photography Endowment Fund 2015
© Sue Ford Archive

 

George Goodman. 'Caroline and son Thomas James Lawson' 1845

 

George Goodman (Australian born England, 1815-1891)
Caroline and son Thomas James Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, presented 1991

 

Olive Cotton. 'Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind' c. 1939

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911-2003)
‘Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind’
c. 1939
Gelatin silver photograph
Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by John Armati 2006

 

Unknown photographer. 'John Gill and Joanna Kate Norton' 1856

 

Unknown photographer
John Gill and Joanna Kate Norton
1856
Albumen photograph
Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Unknown photographer. 'Alfred and Fred Thomas, proprietors of the Ravenswood Hotel' 1880-90

 

Unknown photographer
Alfred and Fred Thomas, proprietors of the Ravenswood Hotel
1880-90
Tintype
State Library of Western Australia, Perth

 

Mervyn Bishop. 'Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari, Northern Territory' 1975

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari, Northern Territory
1975
Type R3 photograph
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

 

 

Mervyn Bishop (born July 1945) is an Australian news and documentary photographer. Joining The Sydney Morning Herald as a cadet in 1962 or 1963, he was the first Aboriginal Australian to work on a metropolitan daily newspaper and one of the first to become a professional photographer. In 1971, four years after completing his cadetship, he was named Australian Press Photographer of the Year. He has continued to work as a photographer and lecturer.

 

Axel Poignant (England, Australia, England 12 Dec 1906 – 05 Feb 1986) 'Aboriginal stockman, Central Australia' c. 1947, printed 1982

 

Axel Poignant (England, Australia, England 1906-1986)
Aboriginal stockman, Central Australia
c. 1947, printed 1982
Type C photograph
35.6 x 24.4cm image/sheet
Purchased 1984
© Courtesy Roslyn Poignant

 

 

Though not born in Australia, Axel Poignant’s work is largely about the ‘Outback’, its flora and fauna and the traditions of Australian and Indigenous identity. Poignant was born in Yorkshire in 1906 to a Swedish father and English mother, and arrived in Australia in 1926 seeking work and adventure. After tough early years of unemployment and homelessness, he eventually settled in Perth and found work as a portrait photographer, before taking to the road and the bush in search of new subjects. Poignant became fascinated with the photo-essay as a means of adding real humanity to the medium, and much of his work is in this form. The close relationships he developed with Aborigines on his travels are recorded in compassionate portraits of these people and their lives – the low angles and closely cropped frames appear more natural and relaxed than the stark compositions of earlier ethnographic photography.

 

Nicholas Caire. 'Fairy scene at the Landslip, Blacks' Spur' c. 1878

 

Nicholas Caire (Australian born England, 1837-1918)
Fairy scene at the Landslip, Blacks’ Spur
c. 1878
Albumen photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, purchased 1994

 

 

Nicholas John Caire (28 February 1837 – 13 February 1918) was an Australian photographer. Caire was born in Guernsey, Channel Islands, to Nicholas Caire and Hannah Margeret. As a boy Caire spoke French found he had a passion for photography that his parents encouraged. Caire moved to Adelaide, Australia, along with both his parents in 1860. Around this time Caire Found a mentor in Townsend Duryea. in 1867 he opened his own studio in Adelaide, Australia. He was married to Louisa Master in 1870 and then shortly after moved to Talbot, Victoria where he continued his photography and started to write for Life and Health Magazine. Caire died in 1918 in Armadale, Victoria.

 

Frank Styant Browne. 'Hand' 1896

 

Frank Styant Browne (Australian born England, 1854-1938)
Hand
1896
X-ray
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery collection, Launceston

 

 

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11
Jul
13

Text: ‘Un/settling Aboriginality’ Dr Marcus Bunyan / Exhibition: ‘Brook Andrew: 52 Portraits’ at Tolarno Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 15th June – 20th July 2013

 

Many thankx to Tolarno Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Download the text Un/settling Aboriginality (1.1Mb pdf)

 

 

Un/settling Aboriginality

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Abstract: This text investigates the concepts of postcolonialism / neo-colonialism and argues that Australia is a neo-colonial rather than a postcolonial country. It examines the work of two Australian artists in order to understand how their work is linked to the concept of neo-colonialism and ideas of contemporary Aboriginal identity, Otherness, localism and internationalism.

Keywords: postcolonialism, postcolonial, art, neo-colonialism, Australian art, Australian artists, Aboriginal photography, hybridism, localism, internationalism, Otherness, Australian identity, Brook Andrew, Ricky Maynard, Helen Ennis.

 

 

Australia and postcolonialism / neo-colonialism

Defining the concept of postcolonialism is difficult. “To begin with, “post-colonial” is used as a temporal marker referring to the period after official decolonisation,”1 but it also refers to a general theory that Ania Loomba et al. call “the shifting and often interrelated forms of dominance and resistance; about the constitution of the colonial archive; about the interdependent play of race and class; about the significance of gender and sexuality; about the complex forms in which subjectivities are experienced and collectivities mobilized; about representation itself; and about the ethnographic translation of cultures.”2

“Postcolonial theory formulates its critique around the social histories, cultural differences and political discrimination that are practised and normalised by colonial and imperial machineries… Postcolonial critique can be defined as a dialectical discourse which broadly marks the historical facts of decolonisation. It allows people emerging from socio-political and economic domination to reclaim their sovereignty; it gives them a negotiating space for equity.”3

While colonialism and imperialism is about territory, possession, domination and power,4 postcolonialism is concerned with the history of colonialism, the psychology of racial representation and the frame of representation of the ‘Other’. It addresses the ongoing effects of colonialism and imperialism even after the colonial period has ended.
“Past and present inform each other, each implies the other and… each co-exists with the other.”5 Even after colonialism has supposedly ended there will always be remains that flow into the next period. What is important is not so much the past itself but its bearing upon cultural attitudes of the present and how the uneven relationships of the past are remembered differently.6 While the aims of postcolonialism are transformative, its objectives involve a wide-ranging political project – to reorient ethical norms, turn power structures upside down and investigate “the interrelated histories of violence, domination, inequality and injustice”7 and develop a tradition of resistance to the praxis of hegemony.

McCarthy and Dimitriadis posit three important motifs in postcolonial art.8 Briefly, they can be summarised as follows:

1/ A vigorous challenge to hegemonic forms of representation in Western models of classical realism and technologies of truth in which the eye of the Third World is turned on the West and challenges the ruling narrating subject through multiple perspectives and points of view.

2/ A rewriting of the narrative of modernity through a joining together of the binaries ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’, ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’, and ‘civilised’ and ‘primitive’. “Culture, for these [postcolonial] artists, is a crucible of encounter, a crucible of hybridity in which all of cultural form is marked by twinness of subject and other.”9

3/ A critical reflexivity and thoughtfulness as elements of an artistic practice of freedom. This practice looks upon traditions with dispassion, one in which all preconceived visions and discourses are disrupted, a practice in which transformative possibilities are not given but have to worked for in often unpredictable and counter-intuitive ways.

.
According to Robert Young the paradigm of postcolonialism is to “locate the hidden rhizomes of colonialism’s historical reach, of what remains invisible, unseen, silent or unspoken” to examine “the continuing projection of past conflicts into the experience of the present, the insistent persistence of the afterimages of historical memory that drive the desire to transform the present.”10 This involves an investigation into a dialectic of visibility and invisibility where subjugated peoples were present but absent under the eye of the coloniser through a refusal of those in power to see who or what was there. “Postcolonialsm, in its original impulse, was concerned to make visible areas, nations, cultures of the world which were notionally acknowledged, technically there, but which in significant other senses were not there…”11 In other words, to acknowledge the idea of the ‘Other’ as a self determined entity if such an other should ever exist because, as Young affirms, “Tolerance requires that there be no “other,” that others should not be othered. We could say that there can be others, but there should be no othering of “the other.”12

The “Other” itself is a product of racial theory but Young suggests that “the question is not how to come to know “the other,” but for majority groups to stop othering minorities altogether, at which point minorities will be able to represent themselves as they are, in their specific forms of difference, rather than as they are othered.”13 Unfortunately, with regard to breaking down the divisiveness of the same-other split, “As soon as you have employed the very category of “the other” with respect to other peoples or societies, you are imprisoned in the framework of your own predetermining conceptualisation, perpetuating its form of exclusion.”14 Hence, as soon as the dominant force names the “other” as a paradigm of society, you perpetuate its existence as an object of postcolonial desire. This politics of recognition can only be validated by the other if the other choses to name him or herself in order to “describe a situation of historical discrimination which requires challenge, change and transformation… Othering was a colonial strategy of exclusion: for the postcolonial, there are only other human beings.”15

Important questions need to be asked about the contextual framework of postcolonialism as it is linked to race, culture, gender, settler and native: “When does a settler become coloniser, colonised and postcolonial? When does a race cease to be an oppressive agent and become a wealth of cultural diversities of a postcolonial setting? Or in the human history of migrations, when does the settler become native, indigenous, a primary citizen? And lastly, when does the native become truly postcolonial?”16

.
This last question is pertinent with regard to Australian culture and identity. It can be argued that Australia is not a postcolonial but a neo-colonial country. Imperialism as a concept and colonialism as a practice are still active in a new form. This new form is neo-colonialism. Rukundwa and van Aarde observe that, “Neo-colonialism is another form of imperialism where industrialised powers interfere politically and economically in the affairs of post-independent nations. For Cabral (in McCulloch 1983: 120-121), neo-colonialism is “an outgrowth of classical colonialism.” Young (2001: 44-52) refers to neo-colonialism as “the last stage of imperialism” in which a postcolonial country is unable to deal with the economic domination that continues after the country gained independence. Altbach (1995: 452-56) regards neo-colonialism as “partly planned policy” and a “continuation of the old practices”.”17

Australia is not a post-independent nation but an analogy can be made. The Australian government still interferes with the running of Aboriginal communities through the NT Intervention or, as it is more correctly known, Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007. Under the Stronger Futures legislation that recently passed through the senate, this intervention has been extended by another 10 years. “Its flagship policies are increased government engagement, income management, stabilisation, mainstreaming, and the catch cries “closing the gap” and “real jobs”.”18 As in colonial times the government has control of a subjugated people, their lives, income, health and general wellbeing, instead of partnering and supporting Aboriginal organisations and communities to take control of their futures.19

Further, Australia is still a colony, the Queen of England is still the Queen of Australia; Britannia remains in the guise of the “Commonwealth.” Racism, an insidious element of the colonial White Australia Policy (which only ended in 1973), is ever prevalent beneath the surface of Australian society. Witness the recent racial vilification of Sydney AFL (Aussie Rules!) player Adam Goodes by a teenager20 and the inexcusable racial vilification by Collingwood president Eddie McGuire when he said that Goodes could be used to promote the musical King Kong.21

“The dialectics of liberation from colonialism, whether political, economic, or cultural, demand that both the colonizer and the colonized liberate themselves at the same time.”22 This has not happened in Australia. The West’s continuing political, economic and cultural world domination has “lead to a neo-colonial situation, mistakenly called post-coloniality, which does not recognize the liberated other as a historical subject (in sociological theory, a historical subject is someone thought capable of taking an active role in shaping events) – as part of the historical transforming processes of modernity.”23 As has been shown above, Aboriginal communities are still thought incapable of taking an active role in shaping and administering their own communities. The result of this continuation of old practices is that Australia can be seen as a neo-colonial, not postcolonial, country.

Kathryn Trees asks, “Does post-colonial suggest colonialism has passed? For whom is it ‘post’? Surely not for Australian Aboriginal people at least, when land rights, social justice, respect and equal opportunity for most does not exist because of the internalised racism of many Australians. In countries such as Australia where Aboriginal sovereignty, in forms appropriate to Aboriginal people, is not legally recognised, post-colonialism is not merely a fiction, but a linguistic manoeuvre on the part of some ‘white’ theorists who find this a comfortable zone that precludes the necessity for political action.”24

 

Two Australian artists, two different approaches

There are no dots or cross-hatching in the work of Ricky Maynard or Brook Andrew; no reference to some arcane Dreaming, for their work is contemporary art that addresses issues of identity and empowerment in different ways. Unlike remote Indigenous art that artist Richard Bell has labelled ‘Ooga Booga Art’ (arguing that it is based upon a false notion of tradition that casts Indigenous people as the exotic other, produced under the white, primitivist gaze),25 the work of these two artists is temporally complex (conflating past, present and future) and proposes that identity is created at the intersection of historically shifting subject positions, which destabilises any claim to an ‘authentic’ identity position and brings into question the very label ‘Aboriginal’ art and ‘Aboriginality’. By labelling an artist ‘Aboriginal’ or ‘gay’ for example, do you limit the subject matter that those artists can legitimately talk about, or do you just call them artists?

As Stephanie Radok has speculated, “surely as long as we call it Aboriginal art we are defining it ethnically and foregrounding its connection to a particular culture, separating it from other art and seeing it as a gift, a ‘present’ from another ethnography.”26 Be that as it may, artists can work from within a culture, a system, in order to critique the past in new ways: “The collective efforts of contemporary artists… do not reflect an escapist return to the past but a desire to think about what the past might now mean in new, creative ways.”27

Ways that un/settle Aboriginality through un/settling photography, in this case.

.
Since the 1980s photographers addressing Indigenous issues have posed an alternative reality or viewpoint that, “articulates the concept of time as a continuum where the past, present and future co-exist in a dynamic form. This perspective has an overtly political dimension, making the past not only visible but also unforgettable.”28 The perspective proposes different strategies to deliberately unsettle white history so that “the future is as open as the past, and both are written in tandem.”29

Artists Ricky Maynard and Brook Andrew both critique neo-colonialism from inside the Western gallery system using a relationship of interdependence (Aboriginal/colonial) to find their place in the world, to help understand who they are and, ex post facto, to make a living from their art. They both offer an examination of place, space and identity construction through what I call ‘the industry of difference’.

Ricky Maynard works with a large format camera and analogue, black and white photography in the Western documentary tradition to record traditional narratives of Tasmanian Aboriginal people in order to undermine the myth that they were all wiped off the face of the planet by colonisation. Through his photography he re-identifies the narratives of a subjugated and supposedly exterminated people, narratives that are thousands of years old, narratives that challenge a process of Othering or exclusion and which give voice to the oppressed.

Portrait of a Distant Land is done through the genre of documentary in a way that offers authenticity and honest image making in the process. It has to deal with all those ethical questions of creating visual history, the tools to tell it with and how we reclaim our own identity and history from the way we tell our own stories. It comes from the extension of the way the colonial camera happened way back in the 19th century and how it misrepresented Aboriginal people. The Government anthropologists and photographers were setting up to photograph the dying race. Of course it simply wasn’t true. That was a way that colonial people wanted to record their history. You see those earlier colonial and stereotypical images of Aboriginal people in historic archives, their photographic recordings were acts of invasion and subjugation used for their own purpose.”30

 

Ricky Maynard 'Coming Home' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Coming Home
2005
from Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver print
34 x 52cm, edition of 10 + 3 AP

 

 

“I can remember coming here as a boy in old wooden boats to be taught by my grandparents and my parents.

I’ll be 57 this year and I have missed only one year when my daughter Leanne was born. Mutton birding is my life. To me it’s a gathering of our fella’s where we sit and yarn we remember and we honour all of those birders who have gone before us. Sometimes I just stand and look out across these beautiful islands remembering my people and I know I’m home. It makes me proud to be a strong Tasmanian black man.

This is something that they can never take away from me.”

Murray Mansell Big Dog Island, Bass Strait, 2005 31

 

Ricky Maynard. 'Vansittart Island, Bass Strait, Tasmania' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Vansittart Island, Bass Strait, Tasmania
2005
from Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver print
34 x 52cm, edition of 10 + 3 AP

 

 

“As late as 1910 men came digging on Vansittart and Tin Kettle Islands looking for skeletons here. We moved them where none will find them, at the dead of night my people removed the bodies of our grandmothers and took them to other islands, we planted shamrocks over the disturbed earth, so the last resting place of those girls who once had slithered over the rocks for seals will remain a secret forever.”

Old George Maynard 1975 32

 

Ricky Maynard. 'The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania
2005
from Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver print
34 x 52cm, edition of 10 + 3 AP

 

 

“It’s pretty important you know, the land, it doesn’t matter how small, it’s something, just a little sacred site, that’s Wybalenna.
There was a massacre there, sad things there, but we try not to go over that. Where the bad was we can always make it good.”

Aunty Ida West 1995 Flinders Island, Tasmania 33

 

 

Maynard’s photographs are sites of contestation, specific, recognisable sites redolent with contested history. They are at once both local (specific) and global (addressing issues that affect all subjugated people and their stories, histories). Through his art practice Maynard journeys from the periphery to the centre to become a fully recognised historical subject, one that can take an active role in shaping events on a global platform, a human being that aims to create what he describes as “a true visual account of life now.”34 But, as Ian McLean has noted of the work of Derrida on the idea of repression, what returns in such narratives is not an authentic, original Aboriginality but the trace of an economy of repression: “Hence the return of the silenced nothing called Aboriginal as the being and truth of the place, is not the turn-around it might seem, because it does not reinstate an original Aboriginality, but reiterates the discourses of colonialism.”35

Sad and poignant soliloquies they may be, but in these ‘true’ visual accounts it is the trace of repression represented through Western technology (the camera, the photograph) and language (English is used to describe the narratives, see above) that is evidenced in these critiques of neo-colonialism (a reiteration of the discourses of colonialism) – not just an authentic lost and reclaimed Aboriginality – for these photographs are hybrid discourses that are both local/global, European/Indigenous.

In his art practice Brook Andrew pursues a more conceptual mutli-disciplinary approach, one that successfully mines the colonial photographic archive to interrogate the colonial power narrative of subjugation, genocide, disenfranchisement through a deconstructive discourse, one that echoes with the repetitions of coloniality and evidences the fragments of racism through the status of appearances. “Through his persistent confrontation with the historical legacy of physiognomia in our public Imaginary”36 in video, neon, sculpture, craniology, old photography, old postcards, music, books, ethnography and anthropology, Andrew re-images and reconceptualises the colonial archive. His latest body of work 52 Portraits (Tolarno Galleries 15 June – 20 July 2013), is “a play on Gerhard Richter’s 48 Portraits projects, which lifted images of influential Western men from the pages of encyclopaedias, 52 Portraits shifts the gaze to the ubiquitous and exotic other.”37 The colonial portraits are screen-printed in black onto silver-coated canvases giving them an ‘other’ worldly, alien effect (as of precious metal), which disrupts the surface and identity of the original photographs. Variously, the unnamed portraits taken from his personal collection of old colonial postcards re-present unknown people from the Congo, Africa, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Algeria, Australia, South America, etc… the images incredibly beautiful in their silvered, slivered reality (as of the time freeze of the camera), replete with fissures and fractures inherent in the printing process. Accompanying the series is an installation titled Vox: Beyond Tasmania (2013), a Wunderkammer containing a skeleton and colonial artefacts, the case with attached wooden trumpet (reminding me appropriately of His Master’s Voice) that focuses the gaze upon an anonymous skull, an unknowable life from the past. In the catalogue essay for the exhibition, Ian Anderson observes, “His view is global – and even though my response is highly local – I too see the resonances of a global cultural process that re-ordered much of humanity through the perspective of colonizing peoples.”38

While this may be true, it is only true for the limited number of people that will see the exhibition – usually white, well-educated people, “The realities of the commercial art world are such that it is chiefly the white upper crust that will see these works. Make of that what you will.”39 Through a lumping together of all minority people – as though multiple, local indigeneties can be spoken for through a single global indigeneity – Andrew seems to want to speak for all anonymous Indigenous people from around the world through his ‘industry of difference’. Like colonialism, this speaking is again for the privileged few, as only they get to see these transformed images, in which only those with money can afford to buy into his critique.

Personally, I believe that Andrew’s constant remapping and re-presentation of the colonial archive in body after body of work, this constant picking at the scab of history, offers no positive outcomes for the future. It is all too easy for an artist to be critical; it takes a lot more imagination for an artist to create positive images for a better future.

 

Conclusion

By the mid-eighties black and indigenous subjectivities were no longer transgressive and the ‘black man’s’ burden’ had shifted from being a figure of oblivion to that of a minority voice.40 Black subjectivities as minority identities use the language of difference to envisage zones of liberation in which marginality is a site of transformation. But, as Ian McLean asks, “Have these post or anti-colonial identities repulsed the return of coloniality?”41 In the fight against neo-colonialism he suggests not, when the role of minority discourses “are simultaneously marginalised and occupy an important place in majority texts.”42 Periphery becomes centre becomes periphery again. “Minority artists are not left alone on the periphery of dominant discourse. Indeed, they are required to be representatives of, or speak for, a particular marginalised community; and because of this, their speech is severely circumscribed. They bear a ‘burden of representation’.”43 McLean goes on to suggest the burden of representation placed on Aboriginal artists is one that cannot be escaped. The category ‘Aboriginal’ is too over determined. Aboriginal artists, like gay artists addressing homosexuality, can only address issues of race, identity and place.44

“Aboriginal artists must address issues of race, and all on the stage of an identity politics. Black artists, it seems, can perform only if they perform blackness. Reduced to gestures of revolt, they only reinforce the scene of repression played out in majority discourses of identity and otherness. Allowed to enter the field of majority language as divergent and hence transgressive discourses which police as much as they subvert the boundaries of this field, they work to extend certain boundaries necessary to Western identity formations, but which its traditions have repressed. In other words, minority discourses are complicit with majority texts.”45

As social constructs (the heart of the political terrain of imperial worlds) have been interrogated by artists, this has led to the supposed dissolution of conceptual binaries such as European Self / Indigenous Other, superior / inferior, centre / periphery.46 The critique of neo-colonialism mobilises a new, unstable conceptual framework, one that unsettles both imperialist structures of domination and a sense of an original Aboriginality. Counter-colonial perspectives might critique neo-colonial power through disruptive inhabitations of colonialist constructs (such as the photograph and the colonial photographic archive) but they do so through a nostalgic reworking and adaptation of the past in the present (through stories that are eons old in the case of Ricky Maynard or through appropriation of the colonial photographic archive in the case of Brook Andrew). Minority discourses un/settle Aboriginality in ways not intended by either Ricky Maynard or Brook Andrew, by reinforcing the boundaries of the repressed ‘Other’ through a Western photographic interrogation of age-old stories and the colonial photographic archive.

Both Maynard and Andrew picture identities that are reductively marshalled under the sign of minority discourse, a discourse that re-presents a field of representation in a particularly singular way (addressed to a privileged few). The viewer is not caught between positions, between voices, as both artists express an Aboriginal (not Australian) subjectivity, one that reinforces a black subjectivity and oppression by naming Aboriginal as ‘Other’ (here I am not proposing “assimilation” far from it, but inclusion through difference, much as gay people are now just members of society not deviants and outsiders).

Finally, what interests me further is how minority voices can picture the future not by looking at the past or by presenting some notion of a unitary representation (local / global) of identity, but by how they can interrogate and image the subject positions, political processes, cultural articulation and critical perspectives of neo-colonialism in order that these systems become the very preconditions to decolonisation.

Dr Marcus Bunyan
July 2013

Word count: 3,453 excluding image titles and captions.

 

Endnotes

  • 1. Abraham, Susan. “What Does Mumbai Have to Do with Rome? Postcolonial Perspectives on Globalization and Theology,” in Theological Studies 69, 2008, pp. 376-93 cited in Kenzo, Mabiala Justin-Robert. What Is Postcolonialism and Why Does It Matter: An African Perspective. Nd [Online] Cited 13/06/2013. No longer available online
  • 2. Loomba, Ania et al. “Beyond What? An Introduction,” in Loomba, Ania et al. (ed.,). Postcolonial Studies and Beyond. Durham, N.C.: Duke University, 2005, pp. 1-38
  • 3. Rukundwa, Lazare S and van Aarde, Andries G. “The formation of postcolonial theory,” in HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 63(3), 2007, p. 1174
  • 4. “Neither imperialism nor colonialism is a simple act of accumulation and acquisition. Both are supported and perhaps even impelled by impressive ideological formations that include notions that certain territories and people require and beseech domination, as well as forms of knowledge affiliated with domination: the vocabulary of classic nineteenth-century imperial cultural is plentiful with such words and concepts as ‘inferior’ or ‘subject races’, ‘subordinate people’, ‘dependency’, ‘expansion’, and ‘authority’.”
    Said, Edward. “Overlapping Territories, Intertwined Histories,” in Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus, 1993, p. 8
  • 5. Ibid., p. 2
  • 6. Ibid., p. 19
  • 7. Young, Robert J.C. “Postcolonial Remains,” in New Literary History Vol. 43. No. 1. Winter 2012, p. 20
  • 8. See McCarthy, Cameron and Dimitriadis, Greg. “The Work of Art in the Postcolonial Imagination,” in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 21(1), 2000, p. 61
  • 9. Ibid., p. 61
  • 10. Young, Op. cit., p. 21
  • 11. Young, Ibid., p. 23
  • 12. “Critical analysis of subjection to the demeaning experience of being othered by a dominant group has been a long-standing focus for postcolonial studies, initiated by Frantz Fanon in his Black Skin, White Masks (1952).”
    Young, Robert J.C. “Postcolonial Remains,” in New Literary History Vol. 43. No. 1. Winter 2012, p. 36
  • 13. Ibid., p. 37
  • 14. Ibid., p. 38
  • 15. Ibid., p. 39
  • 16. Rukundwa, Op cit., p. 1173
  • 17. Ibid., p. 1173
  • 18. Anon. “The 30-year cycle: Indigenous policy and the tide of public opinion” on The Conversation website 06/06/2012 [Online] Cited 16/06/2013
  • 19. Karvelas, Patricia. “Senate approves Aboriginal intervention by 10 years,” on The Australian website June 29, 2012 [Online] Cited 16/06/2013. No longer available online
  • 20. ABC/AAP. “AFL: Adam Goodes racially abused while leading Sydney to Indigenous Round win over Collingwood Sat May 25, 2013” on the ABC News website [Online] Cited 15/06/2013
  • 21. Anon. “Eddie McGuire, Adam Goodes and ‘apes’: a landmark moment in Australian race relations,” on The Conversation website, 31 May 2013 [Online] Cited 15/06/2013
  • 22. Araeen, Rasheed. “The artist as a post-colonial subject and this individual’s journey towards ‘the centre’,” in King, Catherine. View of Difference. Different Views of Art. Yale University Press, 1999, p. 232
  • 23. Ibid.,
  • 24. Trees, Kathryn. “Postcolonialism: Yet Another Colonial Strategy?” in Span, Vol. 1, No. 36, 1993, pp. 264-265 quoted in Heiss, Anita. “Post-Colonial-NOT!” in Dhuuluu Yala (To Talk Straight): Publishing Aboriginal Writing in Australia. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003, pp. 43-46
  • 25. Skerritt, Henry F. “Drawing NOW: Jus’ Drawn'” in Art Guide Australia, September/ October 2010, pp. 34-35 [Online] Cited 17/06/2013.
  • 26. Ibid.,
  • 27. Ennis, Helen. “The Presence of the Past,” in Ennis, Helen. Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p. 141
  • 28. Ibid., p. 135
  • 29. Ibid., “Black to Blak,” p. 45
  • 30. Maynard, Ricky quoted in Perkins, Hetti. Art + Soul. Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University Publishing, 2010, p. 85
  • 31. Mansell, Murray quoted on the Stills Gallery website [Online] Cited 22/06/2013
  • 32. Maynard, George quoted on the Stills Gallery website [Online] Cited 22/06/2013
  • 33. West, Ida quoted on the Stills Gallery website [Online] Cited 22/06/2013
  • 34. Maynard, Ricky. “The Craft of Documentary Photography,” in Phillips, Sandra. Racism, Representation and Photography. Sydney, 1994, p. 115 quoted in Ennis, Helen. Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p. 106
  • 35. McLean, Ian. “Post colonial: return to sender” 1998 paper delivered as the Hancock lecture at the University of Sydney on 11/11/1998 as part of the annual conference of the Australian Academy of Humanities which had as its theme: ‘First Peoples Second Chance Australia In Between Cultures’
  • 36. Papastergiadis, Nikos. “Brook Andrew: Counterpoints and Harmonics.” Catalogue essay for Brook Andrew’s exhibition 52 Portraits at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, June 2013
  • 37. Rule, Dan. “Brook Andrew: 52 Portraits,” in Arts & Entertainment, Lifestyle, in The Saturday Age newspaper, June 29th 2013, p. 5
  • 38. Anderson, Pangkarner Ian. “Re-Assembling the trophies and curios of Colonialism & the Silent Terror.” Catalogue essay for Brook Andrew’s exhibition 52 Portraits at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, June 2013
  • 39. Rule, Dan. Op. cit.,
  • 40. McLean, Ian. “Post colonial: return to sender” 1998
  • 41. Ibid.,
  • 42. Ibid.,
  • 43. Ibid.,
  • 44. “Whether they like it or not, they [Aboriginal artists] bear a burden of representation. This burden is triply inscribed. First, they can only enter the field of representation or art as a disruptive force. Second, their speaking position is rigidly circumscribed: they are made to speak as representatives of a particular, that is, Aboriginal community. Third, this speaking is today made an essential component of the main game, the formation of Australian identity – what Philip Batty called ‘Australia’s desire to know itself through Aboriginal culture’.”
    McLean, Ian. “Post colonial: return to sender” 1998
  • 45. Ibid.,
  • 46. Jacobs observes, “As the work on the nexus of power and identity within the imperial process has been elaborated, so many of the conceptual binaries that were seen as fundamental to its architecture of power have been problematised. Binary couplets like core / periphery, inside / outside. Self / Other, First World / Third World, North / South have given way to tropes such as hybridity, diaspora, creolisation, transculturation, border.”
    Jacobs, J. M. “(Post)colonial spaces,” Chapter 2 in Edge of Empire. London: Routledge, 1996, p. 13

 

Bibliography

Anderson, Pangkarner Ian. “Re-Assembling the trophies and curios of Colonialism & the Silent Terror.” Catalogue essay for Brook Andrew’s exhibition 52 Portraits at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, June 2013

Araeen, Rasheed. “The artist as a post-colonial subject and this individual’s journey towards ‘the centre’,” in King, Catherine. View of Difference. Different Views of Art. Yale University Press, 1999, p. 232

ABC/AAP. “AFL: Adam Goodes racially abused while leading Sydney to Indigenous Round win over Collingwood Sat May 25, 2013” on the ABC News website [Online] Cited 15/06/2013.

Abraham, Susan. “What Does Mumbai Have to Do with Rome? Postcolonial Perspectives on Globalization and Theology,” in Theological Studies 69, 2008, pp. 376-93 cited in Kenzo, Mabiala Justin-Robert. What Is Postcolonialism and Why Does It Matter: An African Perspective. Nd [Online] Cited 13/06/2013

Anon. “Eddie McGuire, Adam Goodes and ‘apes’: a landmark moment in Australian race relations,” on The Conversation website, 31 May 2013 [Online] Cited 15/06/2013

Anon. “The 30-year cycle: Indigenous policy and the tide of public opinion,” on The Conversation website 06/06/2012 [Online] Cited 16/06/2013

Ennis, Helen. “The Presence of the Past,” in Ennis, Helen. Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p. 141

Heiss, Anita. “Post-Colonial-NOT!” in Dhuuluu Yala (To Talk Straight): Publishing Aboriginal Writing in Australia. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003, pp. 43-46

Jacobs, J. M. “(Post)colonial spaces,” Chapter 2 in Edge of Empire. London: Routledge, 1996, p. 13

Karvelas, Patricia. “Senate approves Aboriginal intervention by 10 years,” on The Australian website June 29, 2012 [Online] Cited 16/06/2013

Kenzo, Mabiala Justin-Robert. What Is Postcolonialism and Why Does It Matter: An African Perspective. Nd [Online] Cited 13/06/2013.

King, Catherine. View of Difference. Different Views of Art. Yale University Press, 1999

Loomba, Ania et al. “Beyond What? An Introduction,” in Loomba, Ania et al. (ed.,). Postcolonial Studies and Beyond. Durham, N.C.: Duke University, 2005, pp. 1-38

Maynard, Ricky. “The Craft of Documentary Photography,” in Phillips, Sandra. Racism, Representation and Photography. Sydney, 1994, p.115 quoted in Ennis, Helen. Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p. 106

McCarthy, Cameron and Dimitriadis, Greg. “The Work of Art in the Postcolonial Imagination,” in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 21(1), 2000, p. 61

McLean, Ian. “Post colonial: return to sender” 1998 paper delivered as the Hancock lecture at the University of Sydney on 11/11/1998 as part of the annual conference of the Australian Academy of Humanities which had as its theme: ‘First Peoples Second Chance Australia In Between Cultures’

Papastergiadis, Nikos. “Brook Andrew: Counterpoints and Harmonics.” Catalogue essay for Brook Andrew’s exhibition 52 Portraits at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, June 2013

Perkins, Hetti. Art + Soul. Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University Publishing, 2010, p. 85

Phillips, Sandra. Racism, Representation and Photography. Sydney, 1994, p. 115

Rukundwa, Lazare S and van Aarde, Andries G. “The formation of postcolonial theory” in HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 63(3), 2007, p. 1174

Rule, Dan. “Brook Andrew: 52 Portraits,” in Arts & Entertainment, Lifestyle, in The Saturday Age newspaper, June 29th 2013, p. 5

Said, Edward. “Overlapping Territories, Intertwined Histories,” in Said, Edward. Culture and imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus, 1993, p. 8

Skerritt, Henry F. “Drawing NOW: Jus’ Drawn'” in Art Guide Australia, September/ October 2010, pp. 34-35 [Online] Cited 17/06/2013

Trees, Kathryn. “Postcolonialism: Yet Another Colonial Strategy?” in Span, Vol. 1, No. 36, 1993, pp. 264-265 quoted in Heiss, Anita. “Post-Colonial-NOT!” in Dhuuluu Yala (To Talk Straight): Publishing Aboriginal Writing in Australia. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003, pp. 43-46

Young, Robert J.C. “Postcolonial Remains,” in New Literary History Vol. 43. No. 1. Winter 2012, p. 20

 

Brook Andrew. 'Portrait 19 (Manitoba, Canada)' 2013

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Portrait 19 (Manitoba, Canada)
2013
Mixed media on Belgian linen
70 x 55 x 5cm
Edition of 3 + 2 AP
Real photo postcard
Title: An Old Savage of Manitoba

 

Brook Andrew. 'Portrait 9 (Arab)' 2013

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Portrait 9 (Arab)
2013
Mixed media on Belgian linen
70 x 55 x 5cm
Edition of 3 + 2 AP
Real photo postcard
Title: Danseuse arabe
Publisher: Photo Garrigues Tunis – 2008
Inscribed on front: Tunis 20/8/04

 

Brook Andrew. 'Portrait 7 (Australia)' 2013

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Portrait 7 (Australia)
2013
Mixed media on Belgian linen
70 x 55 x 5cm
Edition of 3 + 2 AP
Title: “An Australian Wild Flower”
Pub. Kerry & Co., Sydney One Penny Stamp with post mark on image side of card. No Address.

 

Brook Andrew. 'Portrait 40 (Unknown)' 2013

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Portrait 40 (Unknown)
2013
Mixed media on Belgian linen
70 x 55 x 5cm
Edition of 3 + 2 AP
Title: “Typical Ricksha Boys.”
R.111. Copyright Pub. Sapsco Real Photo, Pox 5792, Johannesburg
Pencil Mark €5

 

Brook Andrew. 'Portrait 44 (Syria)' 2013

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Portrait 44 (Syria)
2013
Mixed media on Belgian linen
70 x 55 x 5cm Edition of 3 + 2 AP
Real photo postcard
Title: Derviches tourneurs á Damas
Printed on verso: Turquie, Union Postal Universelle, Carte postale

 

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' 2013

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' 2013

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' 2013

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' 2013 (detail)

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' 2013 (detail)

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' 2013 (detail)

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Vox: Beyond Tasmania (full piece and detail shots)
2013
Timber, glass and mixed media
267 x 370 x 271 cm

 

 

Brook Andrew’s newest exhibition is a blockbuster comprising 52 portraits, all mixed media and all measuring 70 x 55 x 5cm. The portraits are of unknown people from Africa, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Syria, Sudan, Japan, Australia … They are based on 19th century postcards which Brook Andrew has collected over many years. These postcards were originally made for an international market interested in travel.

‘Colonial photographers made a trade in photographic images, which were on sold as postcards and souvenirs,’ writes Professor Ian Anderson in Re-assembling the trophies and curios of Colonialism & the Silent Terror. According to Brook Andrew, ‘names were not recorded when Indigenous peoples were photographed for ethnographic and curio purposes. The history and identity of these people remain absent.  In rare instances, some families might know an ancestor from a postcard.’

The exhibition takes it title from a book of drawings by Anatomist Richard Berry: TRANSACTIONS of the ROYAL SOCIETY OF VICTORIA. Published in 1909, Volume V of this rare book contains FIFTY-TWO TASMANIA CRANIA – tracings of 52 Tasmanian Aboriginal skulls that were at the time mainly in private collections.

‘These skulls,’ says Brook Andrew, ‘represented a pan-international practice of collecting Aboriginal skulls as trophies, a practice dependent on theories of Aboriginal people being part of the most primitive race of the world, hence a dying species. This theory activated many collections and grave robbing simultaneously.’

In 52 Portraits Brook Andrew delves into hidden histories such as the ‘dark art of body-snatching’ and continues his fascination with the meaning of appearances. ‘He zooms in on the head and torso of young men and women,’ says Nikos Papastergiadis. ‘Brook Andrew’s exhibition, takes us to another intersection where politics and aesthetics run in and over each other.’

The original images embody the colonial fantasies of innocence and backwardness, as well as more aggressive, but tacit expression of the wish to express uninhibited sexual availability. Brook Andrew aims to confront both the lascivious fascination that dominated the earlier consumption of these images and prudish aversions and repressive gaze that informs our more recent and much more ‘politically correct’ vision. His images make the viewer consider the meaning of these bodies and his focus also directs a critical reflection on the assumptions that frame the status of these images.

The centre piece of the exhibition is a kind of Wunderkammer containing all manner of ‘curiosities’ including a skull, drawings of skulls, a partial skeleton, photographs, diaries, glass slides, a stone axe and Wiradjuri shield. Titled Vox: Beyond Tasmania, the Wunderkammer/Gramophone plays out stories of Indigenous peoples.

In the interplay between the 52 Portraits and Vox: Beyond Tasmania, Brook Andrew aims to stir and open our hearts with his powerful 21st century ‘memorial’.

Press release from the Tolarno Galleries website

 

 

Tolarno Galleries
Level 4
104 Exhibition Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Australia
Phone: 61 3 9654 6000

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday 1pm – 4pm

Tolarno Galleries website

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28
Jul
11

Review: ‘Ricky Maynard: Portrait of a Distant Land’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th May – 14th August 2011

 

Ricky Maynard. 'The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania' from 'Portrait of a Distant Land' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania
2005
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver resin-coated print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

 

“For me, photographs have always been personal and I hope to convey the intimacy of a diary. Photography has the ability to tell stories about the world and how the photograph has power to frame a culture.”

.
Ricky Maynard

 

 

Having posted about this exhibition when it was presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney I was looking forward to seeing it ‘in the flesh’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art. I have seen the exhibition three times now and each time I have left feeling underwhelmed.

While it is encouraging to see the development of an Aboriginal photographic art practice and the documentary depiction from inside this culture as a form of visual oral history, there is something leaden about this story telling. Other than a few incisive images I had no feeling for these photographs; the photographs don’t really take me anywhere. The best of them give access to the spaces they depict (usually the landscapes of distant islands or mountains that evoke “a sense of absence that exist within these landscapes,” a sense of displacement and departure) but most of the work seems to be blocked at the surface of the image: there just seems to be no way in to the emotional and psychological aspects of the photographs. The viewer is hardly ever drawn into the pictures force field. Occasionally they come alive but even when photographing scenes of friends and happiness there is a deadness about the work – a portrait of an emotionally distant and constrained land that is understandable (due to the “existence of the struggle beneath the surface”) but does not make for very compelling art. Even in the printing the highlights are occluded and grey as though a miasma hovers over their production. Commenting in The Age newspaper, Dan Rule observes that series such as Maynard’s mid-80s The Moonbird People that describes the Aboriginal community of his native Flinders Island during the annual mutton bird season, “are at once formally sparse and richly layered in the textural and historical narrative of the land.” Poetic and bearing an incredible weight of history. Personally I didn’t buy into the poetry of the storytelling and I found the photographs heavy going as though that incredible weight of history was inexorably weighing them down. If you want to see real poetry in the art of photography look at the work of William Clift.

I am asked by the curator Keith Munro “Do not forget these faces” but there is nothing truly memorable about them unlike, for example, some of the photographs of Sue Ford or Carol Jerrems. A perfect example are the photographs of Wik elders from the series Returning to places That Name Us (2000, see three photographs below). The viewer is caught at the surface of these images, observing the minutiae of detail, the faces closely cropped at the forehead and neck against a contextless white background. These are confronting images of presence at the large size they are produced in the exhibition but what else are they? At a smaller scale one might have related to the scars, creases and furrows of the Elders like the bark of the tree weathering the storm, an intimacy with a fellow human being and their life journey – but not here. My favourite photograph was an untitled landscape from the series In the Footsteps of Others. In this beautiful image a mountain hovers in the distance while in the foreground dark grasses and trees are shot through with raked sunlight. A mysterious, haunting evocation of space and place that left me wanting more precisely because of its ambiguity and longing.

While the photographs capture individuals and their relationship to place it is a journey they do not take me on. This is the crux of the matter for a photographer – allowing the viewer to see things that are not immediately visible, to construct their own narrative and take that leap of faith invested in the equivalency of the image. For me this never happened with this exhibition.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Katrina Raymond for her help and to The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Mission’ from ‘Portrait of a distant land’ 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Mission
2005
From the series Portrait of a distant land
Gelatin silver resin-coated print
70 x 100cm
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Custodians’ from ‘Portrait of a distant land’ 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Custodians
2005
From the series Portrait of a distant land
Gelatin silver resin-coated print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

Ricky Maynard. 'Broken Heart', from 'Portrait of a Distant Land' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Broken Heart
2005
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver resin-coated print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

 

Portrait of a Distant Land is an exhibition of 60 works by leading indigenous photographer Ricky Maynard, spanning two decades of his practice. Through his photographs Ricky Maynard offers a journey of alternative perspectives and cultural insights. His passion and meticulous attention to detail encapsulates an honest and deeply felt interpretation of his people and the land they inhabit.

Drawing on six bodies of work, this remarkable exhibition was first shown as part of the inaugural Photoquai Biennale organised by Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.

Maynard is based on Flinders Island in Bass Strait and has been recording the lives of his people since the mid 1980s. Several of Maynard’s renowned photographs trace songlines, massacre sites, key historical events, important meeting places, sacred cultural sites and practices of Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

The artist works closely with the communities he photographs and his approach to social documentary represents a major development in the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.

In Urban Diary (1997) Maynard focuses on the experiences of Aboriginal people in Melbourne’s beachside suburb, St Kilda, while his portraits of Wik elders in Returning to Places that Name Us (2000) are inspired by the landmark High Court of Australia’s ruling which recognised the existence of the traditional lands of the Wik people located on Cape York in northern Queensland. Also on view are images from the series The Moonbird People (1985-88) which depicts a Tasmanian Aboriginal community during the annual muttonbird season, and No More Than What You See (1993), a confrontational and emotionally-charged portrait of Indigenous people incarcerated in the South Australian prison system.

Maynard’s personal pilgrimage and spiritual journey as a member of the Ben Lomond and Big River people of Tasmania comes full circle with his images of important cultural sites, ochre trails and scarred trees represented in the series In the Footsteps of Others (2003).

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Untitled’ from ‘Urban diary’ 1997

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Untitled
1997
From  the series Urban diary
Gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Untitled’ from ‘Urban diary’ 1997

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Untitled
1997
From the series Urban diary
Gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

 

Portrait of a Distant Land

DO NOT FORGET THESE FACES – THEY HOLD SOMETHING YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE 1

Through his photographs Ricky Maynard offers a journey of alternative perspectives and cultural insights. His passion and meticulous attention to detail encapsulates an honest and deeply felt interpretation of his people and the land they inhabit.

Maynard, of Tasmanian Aboriginal descent, is a documentary photographer who lives on Flinders Island in the Bass Strait between Tasmania and the southeast Australian mainland. This exhibition presents his latest developing body of work Portrait of a Distant Land, which he began in 2005, as well as a selection of images from five earlier series including The Moonbird People (1985-88), No More Than What You See (1993), Urban Diary (1997), Returning to Places that Name Us (2000) and In The Footsteps of Others (2003), tracing key aspects of Maynard’s practice to the present day.

The ten works from the Portrait of a Distant Land series trace song lines, key historical events, massacre sites, petroglyphs and midden2, important meeting places, sacred cultural sites and practices of Tasmanian Aboriginal people. Presented alongside insightful and poignant quotations by community members who have maintained their local cultural heritage, these powerful images reaffirm a cultural dynamic forged by a strong belief in the importance of upholding cultural integrity both in and through picture making. Importantly, they provide the viewer with a greater understanding of both individual and  collective histories from outside a dominant gaze. Wybalenna on Flinders Island as depicted in Death in Exile and The Healing Garden for instance, is one of numerous historically-scarred sites; and for Maynard Vansittart Island encapsulates the crude and culturally insensitive research and documentation by dominant societies that continues to this day. Some photographs such as Mission, Broken Heart and A Free Country capture moments of reflection while others, like Traitor and The Spit are powerfully loaded references to either specific historical acts of oppression that contributed greatly to the devastation of Aboriginal people of Tasmania or recall childhood memories of people and place. Alongside these works, Coming Home is an example of cultural assertion: it depicts the ongoing significance of muttonbird hunting to Maynard’s people.

The annual muttonbirding season is the subject of Maynard’s powerful and innovative black and white series The Moonbird People, a deeply personal story relating the importance of this tradition to the people on the islands in Bass Strait3. The series was commissioned for the book After 200 Years: Photographic Essays on Aboriginal and Islander Australia Today, produced as part of Australia’s bicentennial celebrations in 1988 4. These images record a cultural practice that significantly predates European colonisation and continues today.

Urban Diary focuses on the experiences of Aboriginal people in Melbourne’s beachside suburb, St Kilda. This body of work captures the interactions between members of the community whilst also depicting some of the challenges Aboriginal people face in urban environments. Through his ability to connect with his subjects, Maynard reveals and honours the humility of this group of individuals who have invited him into their lives.

In the early 1990s, Maynard was given special access by the South Australian Correctional Service to document the life of Aboriginal inmates held in South Australian prisons. No More Than What You See goes beyond mere documentation. The photographs not only reveal the regimented and sanitised environment that inmates are forced to inhabit, they emphasise the dehumanising aspects that have had an indelible impact upon their lives – suggesting personal experiences that may have led to imprisonment and demonstrating the effects of prison life upon them. The fact that the photographs were taken in 1993 during the International Year of the Indigenous People, makes the series more poignant.

Contributing to the provocative nature of this diverse range of images of male and female inmates are the piercing eyes that confront us and expressions of individuality: the family snapshots pinned to the walls of their cells that express the desire to make even the most hostile spaces appear homely. Maynard’s portrayal stands in stark contrast to the impersonal and statistical report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1987-1990)5 and to the common presumption that young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees will become adult offenders.

There is a change of direction in Returning to Places that Name Us. This series of exclusive large-scale portraits was inspired by the landmark High Court of Australia’s Wik ruling which recognised the existence of the traditional lands of the Wik people located on Cape York in northern Queensland.6 Maynard’s visit to Aurukun to photograph Wik elders became complicated because the Federal Government responded to the High Court ruling on Native Title with the introduction of an amended Wik ‘Ten Point Plan’. In his portraits of Wik elders, Maynard’s aim was to:

IDENTIFY IN THESE PICTURES THE EXISTENCE OF STRUGGLE BELOW THE SURFACE, TO SEE THINGS THAT ARE NOT IMMEDIATELY VISIBLE AND TO RECOGNISE THAT WHAT THINGS MEAN HAS MORE TO DO WITH THE OBSERVER.7

As Maynard has stated: ‘… I seek a balance between craftsmanship and social relevance. Photography has the ability to tell stories about the world and… the photograph has the power to frame a culture.’8

Important cultural sites found in the artist’s ‘country’ are the focus of the series In The Footsteps of Others including ochre trails, petroglyphs, stonework sites and scarred trees. Points of travel, contact and interaction, departure and displacement are also referenced. What you begin to sense in these landscapes is a strange absence, an echo of which occurs in his current body of work Portrait of a Distant Land. There is also a strong sense of presence within this absence – of markings, events and cultural practice that have been in existence for thousands of years.

In all of his photographs, Ricky Maynard’s emphasis is on the broader social and cultural context: he is determined not to present Aboriginal people as victims. Rather, he challenges the assumptions of many non-Indigenous Australians and proposes social change by questioning popular notions of historical events and shared histories. He addresses elements of historical amnesia or highlights social issues that affect Aboriginal people.

While this form of documentary photography is not something new, what becomes an interesting development is the formation of an Aboriginal photographic practice, documenting a cultural framework that sees Maynard acknowledge the importance of co-authorship between image maker and subject. This is significant from a wider Aboriginal viewpoint and certainly from the local perspective he represents in his latest body of work.

Focusing on Aboriginal people who historically were ignored and continually denied their cultural heritage, Ricky Maynard considers landscape photography to be a process of rediscovery, a ‘revaluation of where we find ourselves’… ‘a continuing journey’, a way ‘to address issues of identity, site, place and nation’.9 His personal pilgrimage and spiritual journey as a member of the Ben Lomond and Big River people of Tasmania back to the country where he produced his very first body of work The Moonbird People becomes then, much more than just a portrait of a distant land.

Keith Munro
Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

 

Footnotes

1. Quote accompanying Custodians 2005, from the series Portrait of a Distant Land.

2. Petroglyphs, pictures carved into stone, are one of the oldest forms of human expression. A midden (or kitchen midden) is an archaeological term used worldwide to describe any kind of feature containing waste products such as animal bones, shells and other refuse that indicate a site of human settlement. Shell middens, some nearly 40,000 years old, have been found in Australian coastal regions.

3. Muttonbirding is the seasonal harvest of petrel chicks, especially the shearwater species, for food, oil and feathers. It usually refers to the more sustainable and regulated harvesting of chicks in the southern regions of Australia and New Zealand for five weeks every autumn. For the Bass Strait Islanders it is short-tailed shearwater, or ‘yolla’; and in Aotearoa/New Zealand it is the sooty shearwater or ‘titi’.

4. Penny Taylor (ed), After 200 Years: Photographic Essays of Aboriginal and Islander Australia Today, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 1988.

5. The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody led to fundamental changes to the way the criminal justice system deals with Indigenous people in Australia. The Commission (October 1987 and November 1990) investigated the deaths of 99 Aboriginal persons in police and prison custody between 1983-1987. The disproportionate rate at which Aboriginal people were arrested and imprisoned in Australia was identified as the principal and immediate explanation for deaths in custody. Although more than 300 of the Commission’s recommendations were adopted, little has changed and there is still widespread suspicion in the Aboriginal community about a spate of deaths in custody.

6. Following the 1992 Mabo Decision that established that native title is recognised under Australian law, The High Court of Australia’s 1996 Wik Decision further investigated land ownership of pastoral leases. The Wik Decision recognised native title rights for land that was owned on behalf of the Australian public by government; issuing co-existence to Indigenous peoples and pastoral owners. The Native Title Amendment Act (commonly referred to as the ‘Ten Point Plan’), passed by the government in 1998 in response to the Wik Decision, counteracted the coexistence and authorised the absolute governing of land rights issues to the newly established Native Title Tribunal.

7. Artist statement, Returning to Places that Name Us 2000.

8. Artist statement, In Response to Place, exhibition catalogue, City Gallery, Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne, 2007.

9. Ibid.,

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Bruce, Wik elder’ 2000

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Bruce, Wik elder
2000
From the series Returning to places that name us
Gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Arthur, Wik elder’ 2000

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Arthur, Wik elder
2000
From the series Returning to places that name us
Gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Gladys, Wik elder’ 2000

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Gladys, Wik elder
2000
From the series Returning to places that name us
Gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

 

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Swanston Street between Faraday and Elgin streets in Parkville
The University of Melbourne
Victoria 3010 Australia

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01
May
11

Exhibition: ‘Photography & place: Australian landscape photography, 1970s until now’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 16th March – 29th May 2011

 

Debra Phillips. 'Untitled 7 (view from model plane launch area)' 2001

 

Debra Phillips (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled 7 (view from model plane launch area)
2001
From the series The world as puzzle
Two Type C photographs
68 x 80cm each
Image courtesy the artist and BREENSPACE, Sydney
© Debra Phillips

 

 

Hot on the heels of my reviews of Stormy Weather: Contemporary Landscape Photography at NGV Australia and Sidney Nolan: Drought Photographs at Australian Galleries, Melbourne comes the exhibition Photography & place: Australian landscape photography, 1970s until now at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. An insightful, eloquent text by Vigen Galstyan (Assistant curator, photographs, AGNSW) accompanies the posting.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Susanne Briggs for her help and to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs and the text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Douglas Holleley, 'Bottle-brush near Sleaford Bay, South Australia' 1979

 

Douglas Holleley (Australia, United States of America, b. 1949)
Bottle-brush near Sleaford Bay, South Australia
1979
Four SX-70 Polaroid photographs
61 x 76 cm
AGNSW collection, purchased 1982
© Douglas Holleley

 

 

Australian born and American based photographer Douglas Holleley has experimented with many aberrant photographic techniques over the course of his career. Holleley received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 1971 at Macquarie University before relocating to America to undertake a Master of Fine Arts, studying at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York between 1974 and 1976. Founded by Nathan Lyons in 1969 and affiliated with important photographers including Minor White and Frederick Sommers, the Visual Studies Workshop was a bedrock institution that fostered innovative photographic practice from the 1970s onwards. It was here that Holleley received tutelage from Ansel Adams in 1975. His early photographic output includes hand coloured black and white photographs as well as photograms and gridded arrangements of Polaroids. He later began experimenting with digital photography, applying the same principles of the photogram to his experiments with a flatbed scanner.

During the time spent studying photography in America in the 1970s Holleley became interested in Polaroid technology. When he returned to Australia in 1979, before later relocating permanently to America, Holleley commenced an extensive photographic project of documenting the Australian bush with a Polaroid SX-70 camera, effectively becoming one of the first professional practitioners of the medium in the country. The resulting images were presented as a series and published as a book – Visions of Australia – in 1980. Employing a refined formalist vocabulary, Holleley produced photographic mosaics by arranging his Polaroids into gridded compositions.

Dissected, disassembled and then collated within the pictorial frame, the landscape in Holleley’s works becomes slightly unnatural and detached. These works negate linear single point perspective by focusing on the ground and reducing the scene to a formal composite. Here, the expanse of the view and the horizon does not dominate the space of the image. The tessellating images produce a ‘whole’ that is slightly misaligned and unsettled. In some works, the photographer’s shadow is visible. It asserts itself as an ambivalent presence that is not tethered to the scene. This spectral form heightens the sense of disquiet that pervades the images.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 16/01/2020

 

Ian North. 'Canberra suite no 2' 1980, printed c. 1984

 

Ian North (New Zealand, b. 1945)
Canberra suite no 2
1980, printed c. 1984
From the series Canberra suite 1980-81
Type C photograph
37 x 45.7cm
AGNSW collection, gift of the artist
© Ian North

 

Ian North (New Zealand, b. 1945) 'Canberra suite no 7' 1980, printed c. 1984

 

Ian North (New Zealand, b. 1945)
Canberra suite no 7
1980, printed c. 1984
From the series Canberra suite 1980-81
Type C photograph
37 x 45.7cm
AGNSW collection, gift of the artist
© Ian North

 

 

Ian North is an Adjunct Professor of Visual Arts at both the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia. He is a photographer, painter and writer, and was the founding curator of photography at the National Gallery of Australia 1980-1984. Throughout his career, he has been concerned with the legacy of Australian landscape, the impact of colonial narratives and their established visual conventions and, as a consequence, the politics of representing the subject. …

North’s methodology is concerned with the processes of vision and interaction as they have shaped the landscape. In Canberra Suite North presents an encyclopaedic record of Walter Burley Griffin’s intricately designed city, exploring the spatial interface between nature and humanity. The works are absent of human life – reminiscent of Ed Ruscha’s Twenty-six Gasoline Stations. The emotional ambivalence of the images is reflected in their use of colour, like that of postcards. As one of the first instances of larger format colour art photography in Australia, the images topographically map space as a depersonalised, banal subject. Yet their colour, like that of landscape painting, highlights flora, revealing the number of non-native plants included in Canberra’s design. As such, these artefacts of North’s private wanderings and systemic mode of looking are able to subtly critique colonialism.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 16/01/2020

 

 

EARTH SCANS AND BUSH RELEVANCES: Photography & place in Australia, 1970s till now

For many of us, landscape is a noun. A view from the window or the balcony, a strange immaterial ‘thing’ that makes people exclaim in awe, point to in pride, recall nostalgically, pose in front of or be used to bump up real estate prices. If one is an urban dweller, which most Australians are, then the landscape exists essentially as a mirage, something to create in the backyard, occasionally look at on holidays or hang on the walls. However, noted American cultural theorist and art historian W. J. T. Mitchell has proposed that we should think of landscape as a verb: an act of creation on our part that engenders cultural constructs, national identities and shared mythologies.

Photography & place is an exhibition that investigates this process of ‘landscaping’ through the work of 18 Australian photographers between the 1970s and now. Their significant contribution to representation of landscape broke new ground in what has always been a confounding topic. Indeed, as Judy Annear has pointed out in a 2008 essay in Broadsheet magazine, the practice of documenting and interpreting the notion of ‘place’ in Australian photography has been fragmentary in comparison to traditions in America, Europe or New Zealand. This reluctance to focus on the natural environment is perhaps a residue of the ‘terra nullius’ polemic, which shifted the attention of many photographers on the building of colonial Australia. Photography from the mid 19th to the early 20th century by photographers such as Charles Bayliss and Nicholas Caire actively documented the conquest of nature by white settlers, or presented views of untouched wilderness as epitomes of the picturesque: endless waterfalls, lakes, forests in twilights, enigmatic caves and an occasional nymph like creature prancing. Despite Bayliss’ efforts to show the indigenous people on their land, they are, as Helen Ennis observed in her 2007 book Photography and Australia, conspicuous by their absence: the land that we see surrounding them in early Australian photography by the likes of J.W. Lindt is often a mass-produced painted studio backdrop.

The advent of modernism in the 1930s only served to entrench the photographers deeper into the urban space. ‘Place’ is the city and it is here that industry, progress and culture shapes the Australian identity. It is still difficult to dislodge the iconic images of Max Dupain and David Moore as epitomes of Australianness, promulgated as they were through countless renditions in mass media and consumer culture. But as post-modern anxiety started to seep through the patchwork of the Australian dream, it was landscape that many critically informed photographers turned to as a tool for analysis and revision.

A number of factors conflated in the mid 1970s, engendering a radical shift in perspectives. One of the primary forces that began to reshape the approaches to landscape in Australian photography was the awareness of new artistic movements taking place in USA and Europe. The enormously influential exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape held in 1975 at the George Eastman House, Rochester, consolidated the spread of minimalist and conceptually informed photography which was avidly embraced by a younger generation of Australian photographers. One can also cite the rise of the Australian greens movement in Tasmania, the increasing awareness of Indigenous cultures and rights and not the least, the phenomenon of university-educated photographers as key milestones during this decade.

Lynn Silverman, Douglas Holleley, Jon Rhodes, Wes Stacey and Marion Marrison were among the practitioners who pointed their lenses out of the city, often exploring the fringes of human settlement and sometimes as in the case of Silverman, Stacey and Holleley, venturing into the desert. The element that collectively stamps their work is the ostensible fragmentation of the landscape. Instead of the holistic, positivist postcard views of Australia, we get something resembling a lunar vista. The palpable sense of alienation in American expatriate Lynn Silverman’s striking Horizons series from 1979 echoes in the disorienting grid-based Polaroid assemblages by Holleley conjuring up a space that appears hostile and to a degree indifferent to our presence. The foreignness of these landscapes is not necessarily a malevolent force as was customary to show in a slate of Australian New Wave films of the 70s and 80s. Rather a much more meditative stance is taken in regards to our relationship to a place which has been claimed without being understood or in many ways respected. Ingeborg Tyssen’s photographs hint at existing presences, forms and phenomena which are full of life and meaning that remain perpetually unresolved to an outsider. The imported paradigms of Western culture can not take root in this environment. One could easily define the landscape photography of this period in Lynn Silverman’s words as “an orienting experience” and a belated attempt at a proper reconnaissance of the land.

The coolly detached outlook that underlines the investigative drive of most of these photographers is magnified by their adoption of serial or multi-panel formats. It was certainly a way to expand and collapse the accepted faculties of the pictorial field, challenging and questioning the accepted notions of photographic ‘truth’. Jon Rhodes demonstrates the inherent power of this simple device in his cinematically sequential Gurkawey, Trial Bay, NT 1974, which transforms a seemingly wild and uninhabitable swamp into a joyful playground of an Aboriginal child.

In some instances the photographic approach is more concerned with elucidating the nature of the photographic image itself and the way it can influence and control our perception. As Arnold Hauser has lucidly described in his groundbreaking Social History of Art, images have always been used to secure and infer political power. As such, the metamorphosis of a visual representation into an iconographic one carries within it an element of danger as images begin to seduce the viewer away from objectivity. Indeed, images of Australia have been the most relentlessly and carefully used signifiers in promoting a (colonial) national consciousness by political, commercial and cultural institutions. In this light, it is not difficult to see the works of Wes Stacey and Ian North as acts of iconoclasm. Stacey’s droll and gently parodic series The road 1973-1975, charts a snapshot journey that goes nowhere. Seemingly random, half-glimpsed shots of empty dirt roads, sunburnt grass mounds and endless highways emanate a sense of rootlessness and displacement, negating any possibility of objectification or identification with the landscape. Instead of epic grandeur and jingoism we get something that is confronting, uncomfortably real and in no way ‘advertisable’.

‘The Real’ is even more startling in Ian North’s subversive Canberra suite 1980-81, where the utopian dream capital has been reduced to banal ‘documents’ of depopulated, custom-made suburbia. The hyperreal concreteness of North’s Canberra gives the city an aura of a De Chiricoesque waking nightmare. In line with the set practices of conceptual photography of the period, North has distilled his images from any sign of formal mediation, forcing the viewer to focus on the raw content. It is through this forensic directness that the strange incongruity of human intervention within the landscape becomes ostensible.

Daniel Palmer has noted that North’s images “are highly prescient of much photography produced by artists in Australia today”. Certainly by the 1980s photographers became more actively engaged in analysing the nature / culture median. Strongly influenced by feminist and post-colonial theory, a number of practitioners used photography as a medium to document ideas rather than objective reality. Anne Ferran and Simryn Gill are particularly notable in this regard. Both artists are concerned with the historical and political dimensions of the locations they chose to photograph, resulting in multi-layered and complex strategies that require more involved intellectual interaction from the audience. Gill’s ‘staged’ photographs relate to us the agency of nature and time upon the cultural environment. Synthesis and amalgamation of outwardly irreconcilable elements – imported plants, Australian bush, cotton shirts – slowly, but surely melt into new, as yet unknown entities in Rampant 1999. The force of inevitable decay is absolute yet imbued with generative power as well. Exploring the constantly shifting certainties of what constitutes a ‘place’ the artist draws the audience into questioning its own role in this transformative process.

Ferran takes a more archaeological position in relation to her subject matter. Her eerie surveys of rather ordinary grass mounds in the series Lost to worlds 2008 become evocative paeans to obliterated lives, once we learn that the mounds are all that remain of the factories where convict women were sent to work. Looking at these shimmering ghost worlds one is reminded of Walter Benjamin’s essay The Ruin where the writer analyses the capacity of ruins to reveal the “philosophical truth content”. It is through this allegorical device that Ferran achieves a degree of rehabilitation for the absent histories she photographs.

History, in its manifold and troubling guises, is directly ‘exposed’ in the landscapes of Ricky Maynard, Michael Riley and Rosemary Laing. As Indigenous photographers, Maynard and Riley have played an important role in translating the cultural and political status of Aboriginal peoples into a ‘language’ that is universally understood. Their work remains firmly rooted in the traditions of contemporary art, yet the heavily symbolical slant shows a more ardent and personal engagement with the Australian landscape. Riley’s expressionistic series flyblown 1998 sums up in a few strategically juxtaposed metaphors the spiritual dimension of the landscape, while simultaneously revealing the diverging connotations of Australia’s fundamentally divided identity. The colonial legacy is shown as one of conquest and domination that clashes with the artist’s engagement with country. Maynard’s Portrait of a distant land 2005, explores the same dichotomy in more site specific terms. After permanently settling in Flinders Island, Maynard decided to return to the portrayal of Tasmanian Aborigines, taking a more collaborative approach. He sees this as a way of bypassing the propensity of the photographic image “to subjugate its subjects”. The resulting series is a profoundly poetic treatment that rises above social documentation to suggest the wider implications of historical change and disclose the ability of people to overcome what the artist has described as victimisation through a deeply compassionate relationship with the land. Ultimately Maynard gives us an edifying testimony to the affirmative power of the landscape as collective memory.

Interest in the political aspects of landscape photography has continued unabated into the 21st century. Yet a more philosophically inclined thread has become evident in the last two decades. No longer is it enough to deconstruct and pull apart ideas about landscape’s relationship to identity and nationhood. What photographers like Bill Henson, David Stephenson, Simone Douglas and Rosemary Laing question is the very possibility (or impossibility) of seeing itself. If positioning oneself in relation to nature seems like a distinct, albeit problematic proposition in the 1970s and 80s, the later works in the exhibition are resolutely ambivalent on the subject.

What can one grab onto when faced with the endless expanses of white in Stephenson’s The ice 1992, the terrifying darkness of Henson’s night scenes or the infuriating haze of Douglas’s twilight worlds? Perhaps the only recourse is to dissolve into the beckoning ‘forever’ of the vanishing point in Laing’s To walk on a sea of salt 2004. This void is not a boundary point between nature and culture – it is where culture ends and an entirely new state of consciousness begins: the realm of the sublime and the imagination. As history seems no longer to be trustworthy, ‘place’ can only be constructed as a metaphysical entity. It is a curious turnabout in some ways that echoes some of the early, turn-of-the-century encounters with the Australian landscape by photographers such as John Paine and Norman C. Deck. The sense of fear and awe towards the unfamiliar environment permeates their images, transcending the merely investigative / didactic motives of most colonial photography. What has eventuated from walking into this environment? Subjugation? Destruction? Incomprehension? Indifference? By going back to the point zero of the void and the sublime, contemporary photography negotiates a second attempt at engagement with nature through a renewed and deeper understanding of humanity’s symbiotic relationship with this life-giving force.

Vigen Galstyan
Assistant curator, photographs1

 

  1. Galstyan, Vigen. “EARTH SCANS AND BUSH RELEVANCES: Photography & place in Australia, 1970s till now,” in Look gallery magazine. Sydney: Art Gallery Society of New South Wales, 2011, pp. 25-29.

 

 

Rosemary Laing. 'After Heysen' 2005

 

Rosemary Laing (Australian, b. 1959)
After Heysen
2005
Type C photograph
110 x 252cm
On loan from The Australian Club, Melbourne
Image courtesy of the arts & Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
© Rosemary Laing

 

Rosemary Laing (Australian, b. 1959) 'to walk on a sea of salt' 2004

 

Rosemary Laing (Australian, b. 1959)
to walk on a sea of salt
2004
Type C photograph
110 x 226.7cm
Image courtesy of the arts & Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
© Rosemary Laing

 

Jon Rhodes. 'Hobart, Tasmania' 1972-75 from the album 'Australia'

 

Jon Rhodes (Australian, b. 1947)
Hobart, Tasmania
1972-75
From the album Australia
1 of 53 gelatin silver photographs
11.9 x 17.7cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 1980
© Jon Rhodes

 

Jon Rhodes (Australian, b. 1947) 'Tuncester, New South Wales' 1972-75 from the album 'Australia'

 

Jon Rhodes (Australian, b. 1947)
Tuncester, New South Wales
1972-75
From the album Australia
1 of 53 gelatin silver photographs
11.9 x 17.7cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 1980
© Jon Rhodes

 

Michael Riley (Australian, 1960-2004) 'Untitled' 1998 from the series 'flyblown'

 

Michael Riley (Australian, 1960-2004)
Untitled
1998
From the series flyblown
Pigment print
82 x 107.8cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Anonymous gift to the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander and Photography collections 2010
© Michael Riley Estate. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Michael Riley (Australian, 1960-2004) 'Untitled' 1998 from the series 'flyblown'

 

Michael Riley (Australian, 1960-2004)
Untitled
1998
From the series flyblown
Pigment print
82 x 107.8cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Anonymous gift to the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander and Photography collections 2010
© Michael Riley Estate. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

 

Michael Riley received his first introduction to photography through a workshop at the Tin Sheds Gallery in Sydney, 1982. A Wiradjuri / Kamilaroi man, the artist moved to Sydney from Dubbo in his late teens. He became part of a circle of young Indigenous artists drawn together in the city at that time. A founding member of the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative Riley was also a key participant in the first exhibition of Indigenous photographers at the Aboriginal Artists Gallery, Sydney in 1986 (curator Ace Bourke). In 2003 Riley’s work was selected for the Istanbul Biennial, and in 2006 his work was permanently installed at Musée de quai Branly, Paris. A major retrospective toured nationally in 2006-2008.

Riley’s fine art photography began in black and white but he quickly progressed to large-scale colour, a format that also expanded the cinematic qualities of his images, no doubt reflecting the influence film and video were having upon the artist as he worked simultaneously with these media. He produced, for example, the documentaries Blacktracker and Tent boxers for ABC television in the late nineties.

The photographic series flyblown bears a close relationship to the film Empire which Riley created in 1997. Like the film, these photographs give expression to the artist’s concern with the impact of European culture upon that of Australia’s Indigenous population, specifically, as he described it, the ‘sacrifices Aboriginal people made to be Christian’ (Avril Quaill, ‘Marking our times: selected works of art from the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Collection at the National Gallery of Australia’, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 1996 p. 66).

Christian iconography looms large in the series, as it has across much of Riley’s work. In flyblown, an imposing reflective cross is raised in the sky. Repeated in red, gold and blue its presence is inescapable. A symbol capable of inspiring awe, fear, devotion, Riley also engages with its elegiac qualities so that it functions as memorial marker. Another image depicting a bible floating face down in water conceptualises the missionary deluge, perhaps; submersion and loss through baptism, definitely.

flyblown reverberates with a subtle ominous hum – the quiet tension that precedes a storm. The parched earth beneath a dead galah seems to ache for the rain and water promised in the other images of clouds and dark skies. The nourishment Christianity offered and the inadvertent drowning of traditional culture that often followed is implied.

Visually linking the natural environment with religious symbolism Riley articulates Indigenous spirituality’s connections to country and widens his examination beyond to examine the sustained environmental damage. The negative side effects of pastoralist Australia are indicated by contrasting images of the long grass of cattle pastures with that of drought and wildlife death.

Riley’s success in articulating these issues and complexities, incorporating religious iconography so laden by history and meaning is a testament to his sensitivity and subtlety. Allowing room for ambiguity, Riley provides space for the mixed emotions of the subject and its history.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 16/01/2020

 

Simryn Gill. 'Untitled' 1999 from the series 'Rampant'

 

Simryn Gill (Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, b. 1959)
Untitled
1999
From the series Rampant
Gelatin silver photograph
25 x 24cm
AGNSW collection, gift of the artist, 2005
© Simryn Gill

 

 

In Rampant, Simryn Gill turned her eye once more on Australia ‘… to see if I could find friends among the local flora’. This series of photographs was shot in sub-tropical northern New South Wales and shows unnerving images of trees and plants dressed up in clothes. In the photographs these ghostly forms are seen lingering in groves of introduced plants such as bamboo, bananas, sugar cane and camphor laurels. The plants are dressed in lungis and sarongs, generic clothing from South and South- East Asia, where many of these plants originate. Rampant is a form of memento mori, a record of the aspirations that saw plants only too successfully introduced into a pristine terrain which was unable to offer any resistance to their feral ways.

French philosopher Gaston Bachelard condenses his complex thinking on creativity and the human imagination into the metaphor of a tree, with its living, evolving growth and the simultaneity of being earth bound and heaven reaching, symbolising both the real and ideal.1 However, what happens when that tree is a camphor laurel, an admirable thing in its native land but out of place and wrecking havoc along the creeks of rural New South Wales?

Many once-useful species are now noxious weeds and over-successful colonisers, despised for their commonness, their success, their over-familiarity, and for being where we feel they should not be. They disrupt the order we would like to impose and remind us of our fallibility when attempting to play god and create our own earthly Edens. The language of natural purity that we use to protect our landscape also resonates with the nationalist rhetoric used to police our borders and to decide who are acceptable new arrivals and who are illegal aliens, often determined through scales of economic and social usefulness.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 16/01/2020

 

  1. Gaston Bachelard, ‘The totality of the root image’, On poetic imagination and reverie, editor and translator Colette Graudin, Spring Publications, Quebec, 1987, p. 85.

 

Anne Ferran. 'Untitled' 2008 from the series 'Lost to worlds'

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Untitled
2008
From the series Lost to worlds
Gelatin silver print
© Anne Ferran

 

Anne Ferran. 'Untitled' 2008

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Untitled
2008
From the series Lost to worlds
Gelatin silver print
© Anne Ferran

 

Wesley Stacey (Australia, b. 1941) 'The road: Outback to the city 3' 1973-75

 

Wesley Stacey (Australia, b. 1941)
The road: Outback to the city 3
1973-1975
Folio 1 from “The Road” a portfolio of 280 photographs
Fuji Colour machine print
© Wesley Stacey

 

Wesley Stacey (Australia, b. 1941) 'The road: Surfers to Hobart 15' 1973-75

 

Wesley Stacey (Australia, b. 1941)
The road: Surfers to Hobart 15
1973-1975
Folio 16 from “The Road” a portfolio of 280 photographs
Fuji Colour machine print
© Wesley Stacey

 

Wesley Stacey (Australia, b. 1941) 'The road: Port Hedland/Wittenoon/Roeburne, WA 14' 1973-75

 

Wesley Stacey (Australia, b. 1941)
The road: Port Hedland/Wittenoon/Roeburne, WA 14
1973-1975
Folio 10 from “The Road” a portfolio of 280 photographs
Fuji Colour machine print
© Wesley Stacey

 

 

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Opening hours:
Open every day 10am – 5pm
except Christmas Day and Good Friday

Art Gallery of New South Wales website

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10
Jul
09

Exhibition: ‘Ricky Maynard: Portrait of a Distant Land’ at Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Sydney

Exhibition dates: 4th June – 23rd August 2009

 

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Coming Home
2005
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned
37.4 × 54.1cm
© Ricky Maynard

 

 

I can remember coming here as a boy in old wooden boats to be taught by my grandparents and my parents. I’ll be 57 this year and I have missed only one year when my daughter Leanne was born. Mutton birding is my life. To me it’s a gathering of our fellas where we sit and yarn, we remember and we honour all of those birders who have gone before us. Sometimes I just stand and look out across these beautiful islands remembering my people and I know I’m home. It makes me proud to be a strong Tasmanian black man. This is something that they can never take away from me.

Murray Mansell, Big Dog Island, Bass Strait, 2005

 

Ricky Maynard. 'The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania
2005
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned
34.0 x 52.0 cm
© Ricky Maynard

 

 

This winter the Museum of Contemporary Art presents a major survey of photographic works by documentary photographer Ricky Maynard, encompassing more than two decades of the artist’s practice.

Portrait of a Distant Land features more than 60 evocative and captivating photographic works, drawn from six bodies of work, which document the lives and culture of Maynard’s people, the Ben Lomond and Cape Portland peoples of Tasmania.

The exhibition is curated by MCA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs Keith Munro and is presented at the MCA from 4 June until 23 August 2009. Born in Launceston, Tasmania in 1953 Maynard is a self taught documentary photographer now based on Flinders Island in the Bass Strait between Tasmania and mainland Australia.

Maynard first came to prominence in the late 1980s with a photographic essay about Aboriginal mutton bird farmers and he has continued to document physical and social landscapes which form a visual record and representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.

“For me, photographs have always been personal and I hope to convey the intimacy of a diary. Photography has the ability to tell stories about the world and how the photograph has power to frame a culture,” said Maynard, describing his practice.

The works presented in Portrait of a Distant Land survey a broad range of themes and issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today. It includes photographs which document sites significant to Maynard’s people: ranging from serenely beautiful landscapes which follow the song lines, tribal movements and historical displacement routes of his ancestors, to the confrontational and emotionally-charged images of Indigenous people incarcerated in the South Australian prison system.

The six photographic series by Maynard which are featured in the exhibition are The Moonbird People (1985-1988), No More Than What You See (1993), Urban Diary (1997), In The Footsteps of Others (2003), Returning To Places That Name Us (2000) and Portrait of a Distant Land (2005- ). Together these works create a form of visual diary of multiple landscapes derived from collective oral histories of Maynard’s people.”

Press release from the MCA website [Online] Cited 05/07/2009 no longer available online

.
Many thankx to the MCA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Arthur, Wik elder’ from the series ‘Returning to places that name us’ 2000

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Arthur, Wik Elder
2000
From the series Returning to Places that Name Us
Gelatin silver photograph
96.1 x 121.4cm
© Ricky Maynard

 

 

The owner of an enviable collection of antique cameras, Maynard is a lifelong student of the history of photography, particularly of the great American social reformers Jacob Riis, Lewis Hines, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. He is interested in the power of the uninflected image – of sheer veracity – as an agent of record and change. Maynard’s images cut through the layers of rhetoric and ideology that inevitably couch black history (particularly Tasmanian history) to present images of experience itself. ‘To know the meaning of a culture you must recognise the limits and meaning of your own,’ the artist explains. ‘You can see its facts but not its meaning. We share meaning by living it.’ Maynard’s photographs are, he says, about ‘leaving proof’ – about ‘… life in passing and in complicated times’.

The word ‘Wik’ has come to denote a historic decision of the High Court of Australia rather than the name of the Indigenous peoples from the western Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland. In his intimate portraits of elders from these communities, Maynard aims to unpick this abstraction. Etched on each face is the complexity of an unspoken life story, delineated, one imagines, by hardship, perseverance and the burden – and wealth – of an extraordinary living memory. As he wrote in his artist’s statement for the exhibition Returning to Places that Name Us in 2001, ‘… I wanted a presence and portraits that spoke, and through this process to present an idea, rather than preach messages’. In this series, Maynard achieves his aim of capturing meanings that no other medium could convey.

Hannah Fink in ‘Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004

© Art Gallery of New South Wales. Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 14/03/2019

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953) 'Gladys Tybingoomba' 2001

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Gladys Tybingoomba
2001
From the series Returning To Places That Name Us
Gelatin silver photograph
© Ricky Maynard

 

Ricky Maynard. 'Custodians' from the series 'Portrait of a Distant Land' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Custodians
2005
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned
43.0 x 41.2cm
© Ricky Maynard

 

Ricky Maynard. 'Vansittart Island' from the series 'Portrait of a Distant Land' 2007

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Vansittart Island
2007
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned
33.9 x 52.1cm
© Ricky Maynard

 

Ricky Maynard. 'The Spit' from the series 'Portrait of a Distant Land' 2007

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
The Spit
2007
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned
41.8 x 50.4cm
© Ricky Maynard

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953) 'The Mission' 2005 From the series 'Portrait of a Distant Land'

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
The Mission
2005
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned
43.0 x 41.2cm
© Ricky Maynard

 

 

Maynard is a lifelong student of the history of photography, particularly of the great American social reformers Jacob Riis, Lewis Hines, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. Maynard’s images cut through the layers of rhetoric and ideology that inevitably couch black history (particularly Tasmanian history) to present images of experience itself. His visual histories question ownership; he claims that ‘the contest remains over who will image and own this history… we must define history, define whose history it is, and define its purpose as well as the tools used for the telling it’.

In Portrait of a distant land Maynard addresses the emotional connection between history and place. He uses documentary style landscapes to illustrate group portraits of Aboriginal peoples’ experiences throughout Tasmania. Each work combines several specific historical events, creating a narrative of shared experience – for example The Mission relies on historical records of a small boy whom Europeans christened after both his parents died in the Risdon massacre. This work highlights the disparity between written, oral and visual histories, as Maynard attempts to create ‘a combination of a very specific oral history as well as an attempt to show a different way of looking at history in general’.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 14/03/2019

 

 

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
140 George Street
The Rocks, Sydney, Australia

Opening hours: 10am – 5pm daily

MCA website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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