National Gallery of Victoria Education Resource

Gordon Bennett

Gordon Bennett


Exploring Identity

2.1 Create and make – What the hell are coloured people anyway?

Collect and find photographs of a wide variety of people of different ethnicities, cultures and physical appearances.

Scan these into the computer using a photographic software package like ‘Photoshop’.

Place each photograph on a separate layer, overlap and morph or merge all the portraits into one image.

What sort of identity does this create?

What features are dominant? Why?

Experiment with enhancing or diminishing different layers to create a distinctive character.

Using a painting technique, create a finished artwork based on one or some of these experiments.


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2.2 Research and investigate – Western science and Indigenous people and culture

Investigate the theories and ideas associated with anthropology, ethnography and phrenology. How have these sciences influenced the perception and understanding of Indigenous people and cultures?


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2.3 Think and discuss – Australian identity

Collect a range of images (both art and media sources) that depict characters that are perceived or presented as ‘typically Australian’.

What ‘typically Australian’ qualities are associated with these characters?

Are these qualities perceived as positive? Why?

Do these qualities reflect the reality of what it means to be Australian (ie. are they representative of different cultural identities)?

Explain how these images might have influenced perceptions of Australian identity?


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2.4 Explore and respond – self-portraits

Choose a self–portrait by Gordon Bennett that interests you. How does this work compare with conventional self-portraits?

What makes this artwork a self-portrait?

What evidence can you see in this self-portrait of Bennett linking issues of personal identity with broader issues related to history and culture?


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  • Felicity Allen, ‘Gordon Bennett interviewed by Felicity Allen’ in the Herald Sun, 29 August 2000