Museum of Brisbane 'At Home' Residency Blog — 2020
The six weeklong at-home residency with the Museum of Brisbane has now finished. Myself and 9 other artists responded to the idea of 'crisis', in response to the coronavirus pandemic we are living in at the moment. I have completed a series of paintings that respond to the 250 year old ‘crisis’ Indigenous Australians live in. Throughout the course of the residency my paintings started to respond to the images of police brutality that are now being broadcasted around the world from being filmed on mobile phones. Violent brutality against Indigenous Australians at the hands of police or authority is not a new concept or crisis, it has been going on since first contact in Australia.
I have made works about police brutality and the high rates incarceration of Indigenous people before. I was supposed to have my first exhibition on the 21st of March at Open House Collective in West End (it has now been postponed until the 19th of September). This exhibition is called Black Devil and is about the brutal history of the Queensland Native Mounted Police.
After the residency I will continue to explore the same theme of the violent effects of colonisation in Australia.
Brothers in Arms, acrylic on linen, 18 x 24 inch
This painting was done in the week leading up to the Black Lives Matter protests in Australia.
The violent treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody was not a new concept to me.
I wanted this painting to show the devastating impact that the protests have had on me. The overwhelming racism in Australia and around the world has often left me feeling helpless.
My figures in this painting encapsulate that sadness, but I also wanted them to look strong and patient.
The guns in my work have two meanings for me. They represent the brutality of colonisation, and the immeasurable blood shed from guns during the frontier wars.
Also, after reading and watching more material on the Black Panther Party in America, guns are also signs of autonomy and defense.
"Lockdown", acrylic on linen, 18 x 12 inch
"Terra Nullius", acrylic on linen, 24 x 18 inch
I wanted to make a painting that looked at the devastation that colonisation has had on Indigenous people in Australia in a surrealist way.
"The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden", acrylic on linen, 18 x 12 inch
For this painting I was looking at the Queensland Native Police and the violence that came with the intrudoction of guns.
The painting Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Masaccio(1425) depicts a forlorn Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden for giving into temptation. The guns are an analogy for the forbidden fruit. My painting represents a similar corruption: the taking up of arms by Native Police troopers.
"The New Normal no. 2", 2020.
This painting is in the continuation of themes I look at in the painting The New Normal below.
"Black Skin, White Masks", 2020.
When I started this painting, I was reading a book by Franz Fanon, the French West Indian psychiatrist and political philosopher from the French colony of Martinique, called Black Skin, White Masks. The book was first pu
"In Chains", acrylic on linen, 18 x 24 inch.
This painting is a self portrait. In the same fashion as the painting Brothers in Arms above.
I wanted to show the helplessness that I feel at the moment, whilst also feeling empowered.
Over the past couple of weeks I have started four paintings for my residency with the Museum of Brisbane.
I am selling some of the paintings which I am doing for the MoB residency with a percentage of the sales going to the charities Sisters Inside and Murri Watch (see here).
I will be updating this blog throughout the residency.
"Black Skin, White Masks", 2020.
When I started this painting, I was reading a book by Franz Fanon, the French West Indian psychiatrist and political philosopher from the French colony of Martinique, called Black Skin, White Masks. The book was first published in 1952, and is about colonialism's psychological violence. It's also about violence in anti-colonial struggles.
Fanon writes: “The black man wants to be white.” In this painting, I have given my black figures white masks. I think this makes them look like ghosts. They look lifeless. These ‘white masks’ have sucked the blackness from them, suffocated their being and selfhood.
See here for a similar, earlier work of mine.
"The New Normal", 2020.
In the current pandemic I hear people say this is "the new normal" or, sometimes, that they want to "get back to normal".
I find this disturbing. 'Normal', for black Australia, means living in a country that was stolen from us. 'Normal' means our people die young, and that our young men are more likely to go to jail than to finish high school.
This is a work in progress. At the moment I am not too sure where this painting will go.
I started drawing this kind of figure accidentally. Before I started to take my art seriously I would doodle lanky figures that represented how l felt in my own body: bloated, weird, uncomfortable.
In this painting I was trying to make my usual figure look more spectral, skeletal, and deathly.
The arms coming out of the ground look to me like burnt trees or the end of a used and burnt match stick. In Brisbane we didn't really experience the bushfires earlier this year though we did have a lot of smoky days. Driving down to Melbourne I saw lots of scorched trees along the highway.
I am not too sure if I like this painting. Often I will start something and then paint over it multiple times. This will probably happen with this one.