National Gallery of Victoria Education Resource

Gordon Bennett


Education
Gordon Bennett

5

Art Practice and Industry Issues

This section explores ideas related to the role of materials, techniques and style in Gordon Bennett’s art practice. This includes a consideration of the artist’s most recent abstract paintings. It also introduces issues and ideas related to how Bennett’s work has been recognised and received. This includes the emergence of Bennett’s artistic alter-ego, John Citizen, in the mid–1990s as a response to some of these issues.

 
 

Art practice – a multidisciplinary approach

Bennett’s art practice is often described as multidisciplinary. Painting has remained consistently important in his practice over the past twenty years. But like many contemporary artists, Bennett works in a range of art forms and with a variety of media and techniques. His work also includes:

An expanded practice – the influence of new technology

Gordon Bennett’ Still from Performance with object for the expiation of guilt (Violence and grief remix) 1996

Gordon Bennett
born Australia 1955
Still from Performance with object for the expiation of guilt (Violence and grief remix) 1996
colour video transferred to DVD, sound, 7 min 42 sec
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the artist, 2000
© Courtesy of the artist

During 1994–95 at summer school Bennett learnt to make digital videos on an Apple PowerMac computer. This allowed him to utilise professional capture, editing and special effects software, to expand his art practice to include video and performance work.1

Performance with object for the expiation of guilt (Violence and grief remix) 1996, included in this exhibition, is a remix of an earlier video performance work, Performance with object for the expiation of guilt, 1995. The performance that forms an integral part of this work shows a tall indistinct figure (Bennett) prowling around a stage- like setting illuminated by a rapidly changing pattern of images, text, light and colour. He holds a large whip with which he regularly lashes out at a black, coffin- like box. The images include historical footage of Indigenous people and details of some of Bennett’s own paintings. The soundtrack includes digital sampling of ICE.T’s ‘Race War’.

The dynamic juxtaposition of images, sound and other effects made possible by video, introduced new dimensions to Bennett’s investigation of issues and ideas related to identity, history and language.

In 1995 Bennett also began the Home décor series. This series integrates elements from ‘indigenous’ designs by Margaret Preston, De Stijl-inspired modernist compositions and imagery drawn from Bennett’s earlier work. The computer and Adobe PhotoShop software, played an integral role in the development of this series.

In the ‘cut and paste’ aesthetic of the Home décor series we are also able to gauge the growing importance of the computer to Bennett during this period; a tool which enabled him to both experiment and successfully ‘build’ his compositions before physically undertaking their complex and time consuming execution. Kelly Gellatly 2

Art practice – questions of style

While the conceptual framework underpinning Bennett’s art has remained remarkably consistent, his art practice has been characterised by some dramatic stylistic shifts over twenty years.

Bennett’s earliest works, including The coming of the light, 1987, reflect a raw and expressive style. This was soon replaced by a cooler, more conceptual approach. This approach involved a flattening of the picture surface and often the use of disparate visual elements or styles borrowed or copied from different sources. These sources included social studies texts.  Bennett has continued to work in new ways with materials, techniques and images throughout his career. This approach to his work resists any classification or confinement according to style. Traditional ideas about an artist’s ‘individual’ or ‘signature style’ are further confounded in Bennett’s art practice by the his appropriation or sampling of the distinctive styles of other artists, including Jackson Pollock (1912–56), Margaret Preston ( 1875–1963) and Piet Mondrian (1872–1944). The The Notes to Basquiatseries, which Bennett commenced in 1998, marked a significant new direction in his art in relation to working with the style of another artist.

The works in this series display a sophisticated mimicry of Basquiat’s raw street style.3 This includes its expressive mark making and distinctive use of motifs and symbols such as skeletal figures, lists, crowns and aeroplanes. Bennett’s adoption of Basquiat’s style reflects the strong connection he felt to Basquiat’s subject matter and personal story. Basquiat’s style provides a new and broader context for the often distinctly Australian ideas and images that Bennett explores in his work.

Bennett has continuously shifted his style:

…not only to avoid being typecast…but also to make the point that he is, before anything else, an artist, a performer. We don’t confuse an actor with the role he plays, so too we should not confuse the artist with the persona projected in his art. In short, art is a type of disguise, mask or mirror rather than a window onto the soul, but a disguise by which the artist can be something more than himself, and a mirror that reflects back to the audience their own selves and the world they live in. Ian McLean 4


Art practice – interconnectedness

Gordon Bennett’ Notes to Basquiat (The coming of the light) 2001

Gordon Bennett
born Australia 1955
Notes to Basquiat (The coming of the light) 2001
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
152.0 x 152.0 cm
Collection of the artist, Brisbane
© Courtesy of the artist
Photography: John O’Brien

Gordon Bennett’ The coming of the light 1987

Gordon Bennett
born Australia 1955
The coming of the light 1987
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
(a-b) 152.0 x 374.0 cm (overall)
Collection of the artist, Brisbane
© Courtesy of the artist
Photography: Brenton McGeachie

The ability of Bennett’s oeuvre to fold back on itself while forging new ground – its interconnectedness, is just one of many characteristics that ensure the continued significance of what is at times a confronting and expansive body of work. Kelly Gellatly 5

The interconnectedness that characterises Bennett’s art practice is clearly evident when we compare Notes to Basquiat (The coming of the light), 2001 with the earlier 1987 painting, The coming of the light. The more recent painting includes signs – high rise buildings, outstretched arms – that were pivotal to his interrogation of colonisation and its impact on Indigenous culture in The coming of the light. Viewed through Basquiat’s distinctive style and motifs, and through the associations they suggest with Basquiat’s own story and cultural context, Bennett presents new broader perspectives on the ideas and issues explored in his early work.

Issues of recognition and reception

Bennett achieved critical success early in his career. In 1989, a year after graduating from art college, his work was included in the high profile Australian Perspectaexhibition of contemporary art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In the following year he was awarded the prestigious Moët et Chandonprize with his painting The Nine Ricochets (Fall down black fella, jump up white fella), 1990.

Such accolades and critical recognition are keenly sought by many artists. For Bennett, however, success triggered concerns related to the links drawn between his identity as an Indigenous person, his subject matter and the reception of his work. Bennett was acutely aware that his own success paralleled the growing contemporary interest in Indigenous art and culture. As he said in 1989:

My quick success has something to do with my Aboriginality and that worries me. Let’s face it; Aboriginal work is flavour of the month. Gordon Bennett 6

Bennett also had ongoing concerns about how his Aboriginal identity and his interest in subjects related to Aboriginality were framing and hence limiting the way his artistic identity and his work were perceived.

I didn’t go to art college to graduate as an ‘Aboriginal Artist’. I did want to explore ‘Aboriginality’, however, and it is a subject of my work as much as colonialism and the narratives and language that frame it, and the language that has consistently framed me. Acutely aware of the frame, I graduated as a straight honours student of ‘fine art’ to find myself positioned and contained by the language of primitivism as an ‘Urban Aboriginal Artist’. While some people may argue this has been a quick road to success, and that my work is authorised by my ‘Aboriginality’, I maintain that I don’t have to be an Aborigine to do what I do, and that ‘quick success’ is not an inherent attribute of an Aboriginal heritage, as history has shown, nor is it that unusual for college graduates who have something relevant to say. Gordon Bennett 7

For an artist whose practice was concerned with how labels and systems define and confine knowledge and perception, labels and categorisations such as ‘aboriginal artist’, or ‘urban aboriginal artist’ that were often applied to his work through exhibitions, books and other commentaries presented many practical as well as philosophical issues

I am very aware of the boundaries of critical containment within the parameters of ‘Urban Aboriginal Art’, and have so far worked within these boundaries to try and broaden, extend and subvert them. The reality is, however, that I have never really had much choice; and I have been faced with my work not entering some collections on the grounds of it being not ‘Aboriginal’ enough, to being asked to sell my work through stalls at cultural festivals…Gordon Bennett 8

Bennett adopted several strategies to resist the narrow framework through which he as an artist and his work were viewed.

I have tried to avoid any simplistic critical containment or stylistic categorisation as an ‘Aboriginal’ artist producing ‘Aboriginal’ art by consistently changing stylistic directions and by producing work that does not sit easily in the confines of ‘Aboriginal art’ collections or definitions. At the same time I have resisted being positioned as a ‘spokesperson for my people’ – since I do not have nor do I seek, such a mandate – by declining to speak about my work. Gordon Bennett 9

Since 1992 Bennett has been involved in an ongoing ‘non-performance’ by refusing to participate in public lecture programs in Australia. 10 While artists often have limited control over how their work is exhibited after it has been sold, Bennett also refuses to exhibit his work in ‘Aboriginal’ art exhibitions, preferring:

…to be conceived as a ‘contemporary artist’ who just happens to be indigenous and whose work encompasses an investigation of aboriginality and the construction of identity within a broad range of complex and interconnected issues. Kelly Gellatly 11

John Citizen

John Citizen’ Interior (Tribal rug) 2007

John Citizen
born Australia 1955
Interior (Tribal rug) 2007
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
152.0 x 152.0 cm
Private collection, Brisbane
© Courtesy of the artist
Photography: John O’Brien

John Citizen, Unassailable heroes (Sweet damper) Famous since Captain Cook 1996

John Citizen
born Australia 1955
Unassailable heroes (Sweet damper) Famous since Captain Cook 1996
synthetic polymer paint, pencil and watercolour
80.0 x 120.0 cm (sheet)
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Purchased with funds from the Sir Claude Hotchin Art Foundation, 1999
© Courtesy of the artist
Photography: Kenneth Plebann

By the mid 1990s, Gordon Bennett came to feel he was in an untenable position. While his work was increasingly exhibited within a national and international context, the combination of his position (or as Bennett would argue ‘label’) as an (urban) Aboriginal artist, and the subject matter of his work, seemed to ensure inclusion within certain curatorial and critical frameworks, and largely determine interpretation and reception. Kelly Gellatly 12

Bennett was concerned that his identity and work was seen as coming from a narrow framework. This led him to adopt an artistic alter ego, John Citizen. John Citizen had his first exhibition in 1995 at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne. He continues to exhibit and his works are part of important public and private collections. 13

It is no secret that John Citizen is Gordon Bennett. John Citizen is:

…transparently a type of disguise. Perhaps the main point of John Citizen is that in recognising his disguise, we must accept that ‘Gordon Bennett’ is one too. Ian McLean 14

As an alternative artistic identity, John Citizen not only alerts us to how artistic identity is constructed, it gives Bennett great freedom to be someone other than Gordon Bennett.

John Citizen is an abstraction of the Australian ‘Mr Average’, the Australian ‘everyman’. John Citizen is a work in progress that allows me to follow other streams of thought in my practice. He serves as a counterpoint to Gordon Bennett’s ‘Other’, and yet we are the one and the same. When Gordon Bennett is labelled an ‘Aboriginal Artist’ he is ‘othered’ as an Aborigine and all the preconceptions that entails. John Citizen lets me take my Australian citizenship and cultural upbringing back from the netherworld of the imagined ‘Other’. As far as pinning down who John Citizen actually is, I’m not interested in doing that. His identity must remain fluid. He is in a sense all things to all people. He can be anything the viewer wants him to be: white, black or any shade in between, as is true of Australian citizens in general in our multicultural country. Gordon Bennett 15

From the beginning of his career, John Citizen has had a complex relationship with Gordon Bennett. In Unassailable heroes (Sweet Damper) Famous since Captain Cook, 1996 the motifs and symbols suggest issues and questions related to history and representation that concern Bennett. These include the tall ship and the appropriated logos featuring kitsch and racist references to Indigenous people, and the ominous juxtaposition of bags of flour and bottles of poison. However, while apparently recognising and presenting these motifs/symbols as signifiers of meaning, Citizen does not appear to have the same interest as Bennett in interrogating the systems and values these motifs represent or the role they have played in shaping identity, history and understanding. Perhaps in this sense Citizen represents an Australian everyman who recognises the wrongs of history and racist representations, but who has no real interest in going any further in asking hard questions about why they happened and what impact they caused.

Citizen’s more recent work includes a series of interiors inspired by the decorator and home magazines that circulate widely in popular culture. This work reflects our contemporary obsession with creating the perfect home filled with the latest ‘must have’ designer style and material items. In Interior (Tribal rug), 2007 the sleek modern design of the furniture is complemented by a Margaret Preston inspired tribal rug and an abstract painting by Gordon Bennett. The focus on ‘designer style’ in these interiors, the lack of human presence, and the flat areas of colour with simple black outline, creates a strange feeling of emptiness that sets them apart from Bennett’s art.

Recent work – abstraction

Gordon Bennett’ Number nine 2005

Gordon Bennett
born Australia 1955
Number nine 2004
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
152.0 x 152.0 cm
Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
© Courtesy of the artist
Photography: John O’Brien

While John Citizen was focused on his Interiors series, and the more recent Coloured people series inspired by the head shots of beautiful, smiling people from the social pages of weekend newspapers, Bennett was involved in an entirely different project. In 2003 he embarked on a series of non-representational abstract paintings, marking a dramatic shift in his art practice, formally and conceptually. These are paintings about painting. 

I guess the work is different for me in that I concentrate on the act of painting in itself, rather than as a means to an end. Whilst painting, I am totally consumed by the act of dragging the brush down the surface of the canvas, by the act of keeping the lines/stripes even and as straight as possible. Gordon Bennett 16

In contrast to earlier artworks, where titles often provided a starting point for exploring ideas or issues, Bennett’s abstractions are titled with numbers that relate to the order in which they were made. This emphasises the works’ formal qualities and discourages any narrative or symbolic reading of it.

The motivation behind the abstract paintings is complex but in part it reflects Bennett’s ongoing concerns about issues related to the reception of his work.

There are a number of reasons why I began painting abstract paintings that focused on ‘overt visual phenomena, as opposed to explicit visual content’. One reason is that I felt I had gone as far as I could with the postcolonial project I was working through. This culminated in the Notes to Basquiat series in 2003. The content of the work was getting to me emotionally. So, painting in an overtly ‘abstract’ manner was a way to go silent on the issues involved and yet still keep painting. It was a way forward for me.

Another reason was to make people aware that I am an artist first and not a professional ‘Aborigine’. I found people were always confusing me as a person with the content of my work.

Finally, I’ve never been one to make art about art before. There was always some sense of social engagement. I needed to change direction … at least for a while. Art about art seems appropriate for the time being. The Stripe series of abstract paintings represents a kind of freedom for me as an artist. Gordon Bennett 17

References

  1. Jane Devery, ‘Chronology’ in Kelly Gellatly with contributions by Bill Wright, Justin Clemens and Jane Devery, Gordon Bennett (exh . cat. ), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 2007, pp. 114– 115
  2. Kelly Gellatly ‘Citizen in the making’, in Kelly Gellatly with contributions by Bill Wright, Justin Clemens and Jane Devery, Gordon Bennett (exh . cat. ), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 2007, p. 20
  3. Kelly Gellatly, ‘ Citizen in the making’, p. 21
  4. Ian McLean, ‘Who is John Citizen?’ Greenaway Art Gallery, 2006, n.p.
http://www.greenaway.com.au/artists/BennettG/Essay01.htm accessed 29/11/07 05
  5. Kelly Gellatly, ‘Citizen in the making’, p. 9
  6. Bob Lingard, ‘A kind of history painting’, Tension, no. 17, August 1989, p. 41 Quoted Kelly Gellatly, ‘Citizen in the making’, p. 9
  7. Gordon Bennett, ‘The manifest toe’, Ian McLean & Gordon Bennett, The Art of Gordon Bennett’ Craftsman House, 1996, p. 58
  8. Gordon Bennett, ‘The manifest toe’ p. 58
  9. Gordon Bennett, ‘The manifest toe’ p. 59
10. Jane Devery, ‘Chronology’ p. 113
11. Kelly Gellatly, ‘Citizen in the making’, p.18
12. Kelly Gellatly, ‘Citizen in the making’, p. 17
13. ‘John Citizen artist profile’, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne http://www.suttongallery.com.au/artists/artistprofile.php?id=39 accessed 29/11/07
14. Ian McLean, ‘Who is John Citizen?’
15. ‘Conversation – Bill Wright talks to Gordon Bennett’, in Kelly Gellatly with contributions by Bill Wright, Justin Clemens and Jane Devery, Gordon Bennett (exhib. cat. ), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 2007, p. 101
16. Gordon Bennett, ‘Conversation – Bill Wright talks to Gordon Bennett, p. 100
17. Gordon Bennett, 'Conversation - Bill Wright talks to Gordon Bennett, p. 97

 
 

Aboriginal deaths in custody
A major issue that came to the fore in the 1980s due to the large numbers of Indigenous Australians dying while in prison. It was perceived that these deaths directly or indirectly involved police authorities. A Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody was established in 1987 to investigate these serious concerns. This commission also investigated the standard of care of Indigenous Australians whilst in custody.
Abstract Expressionism
A style of painting generally associated with a group of artists who worked in New York in the late 1950s. These artists used colour and paint expressively in their work to convey feelings and moods. Their paintings are characterised by shallow pictorial space and all over composition. Abstract Expressionist paintings are generally non- representational, but some include figurative elements.
Action Painting
A style of painting developed and used by Abstract Expressionist artists in New York in the 1940s, in which movement and gesture are used to create strokes and marks that suggest energy and emotion.
Alter ego
In psychology, it is the second self, or a person with a second personality.
Anglo–Celtic
A collective term that describes English, Irish and Scottish cultural heritage.
Appropriation
In the visual arts appropriation involves using existing images, such as the artworks of other artists within a new work in order to create new meanings and ideas. These existing images often convey powerful meanings that artists build on, challenge or critique when they use the image. Appropriation is a strategy commonly associated with postmodern art. Appropriation is not plagiarism as the artist is not trying to copy or quote from the artwork in order to claim it as his/her own idea.
Anthropology
The study of the origin and behaviour of human kind. This includes religious and cultural customs and beliefs.
Australian Perspecta
A biennial exhibition which began in 1981 and ceased in 2000. Initiated by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, its main aim was to showcase contemporary Australian art.
Basquiat, Jean–Michel (1960–1988)
An American artist of Puerto Rican and Haitian descent. His raw, expressionistic style reflects the influence of graffiti and Jazz music. His work addressed issues of ‘black’ culture and identity, especially in the context of American society.
Bicentenary or Bicentennial
An anniversary of two hundred years. The Australian Bicentenary in 1988 marked two hundred years of European occupation in Australia. Bicentennial celebrations commenced in January 1988.
Caricature
An image or portrait that exaggerates and distorts the appearance of a person or object but is still recognisable.
Constructivist
A non- representational form of abstract art associated with Constructivism, (c1919–1934), that originated in Moscow. This art movement favoured art for social purposes and is often aligned to Socialist regimes.
Conventions
Widely accepted and understood ways of doing something. Meaning is often communicated in visual language by convention. The use of black to represent death for example is a widely recognised convention in Western culture.
Cook, Captain James (1728–1779)
An English Explorer, Navigator and Cartographer. He is recognised as having charted many unknown landmasses, such as New Zealand, Newfoundland and Hawaii, as well as the Antarctic Circle, during his voyages in the Pacific Ocean. He is most famous for ‘discovering’ Australia in 1770.
Deconstruct or Deconstruction
A way of breaking down and analysing images in order to discover, recognise and understand the underlying ideas within an artwork and to ‘construct’ new meanings.
De Stijl
Literally translated means ‘the style’. The name of a group of artists and designers in Holland (c1917– 28), who believed that art could achieve a new utopian and spiritual harmony by reducing images to basic elements, such as vertical and horizontal lines, primary colours and black and white.
Dreaming
The basis of Indigenous Australian belief systems and spirituality. The land is viewed by Indigenous Australians as a record of ancestral activity. At the beginning of time, ancestor spirits rose from beneath the earth and through their travels and activities produced the landscape, laws and customs we know today. The Dreaming is not static and continues to permeate everyday living. Individuals are born into the land and obtain a spiritual association with a dreaming totemic ancestor, usually an animal or plant from the area.
Enlightenment
An intellectual movement that developed during the eighteenth century, in many European countries, and the United States. It advocated reason above emotional or spiritual knowledge. It marked a time when scientific knowledge became the measure of all learning. Enlightenment thinkers believed that systematic thinking could be applied to all spheres of life to develop the individual, society and the state.
Ethnography
The description and study of various cultural and racial groups. The study of a particular human society to learn and understand its culture.
Eurocentric
Viewing the world from a European perspective. This perspective often assumes the superiority of Western culture.
Expressionist or Expressionism
A style of art that emphasises personal feelings, responses and thoughts rather than objective representation of subject matter. This is often achieved through expressive use of art elements, materials and techniques such as gestural marks that reveal the artists’ feelings.
Genocide
The systematic and deliberate destruction of a race of people.
Hebrew Scriptures
Refer to Old Testament books within the Bible that tell the story of the special covenant between the Israelites and their God.
Ideologies
A body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class or culture.
Kitsch
A term of German origin meaning ‘to make cheap’. It refers to art that is in bad taste or an inferior copy of an existing style.
Malevich, Kazimir Severinovich (1878–1935)
Malevich was a Russian avant- garde artist as well as an important member of the Suprematist movement. He pioneered geometric abstract art.
Mimicry
Means ‘to imitate’.
Modernist or Modernism
In this context refers to the major artistic movements in Western art between about 1860–1970 when art seemed to ‘progress’ from the naturalism of Impressionism to the abstract and non- representational art of the 1950s and 1960s. These art movements were often radical at the time and challenged many social, political, religious or artistic values.
Mondrian, Piet (1872–1944)
An important Dutch artist associated with De Stijl. His artworks are characterised by their grid- like compositions and a palette limited to black and white and the primary colours. While many of his artworks look simple they are complex and deep investigations into space and form. For Mondrian the grid was the basic structure to convey the essence of all things.
Moët et Chandon prize
Was a prestigious art prize awarded annually to artists under the age of 35. The successful artist was awarded $50,000 and a studio for a year in the Champagne district of France. Usually 25–30 artworks were chosen from thousands of entries as finalists. These works formed the basis of an annual exhibition that toured the major state galleries.
Multidisciplinary
In art this term often refers to artists that work using two or more different art forms and/or materials within their art practice.
Pastiche
A mixture of materials, forms, motifs or styles in an artwork. These may be borrowed or appropriated from a range of different sources.
Perspective or Linear perspective
Perspective is the illusion of three- dimensional space on a flat surface. Linear perspective is a mathematical drawing system developed during the Renaissance that assisted artists to create an illusion of three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface. This drawing system involves the use of vanishing points and a horizon line.
Pointillist
A style of painting where different colours are painted side- by- side, using small regular dots. From a distance the colours blend in the viewer’s eye (optical mixing) to create new colours or tonal effects. This style was developed by French artist Georges Seurat (1859–1891).
Pollock, Jackson (1912–1956)
American painter associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement, specifically Action painting. Pollock’s Action painting reflected a radical approach to painting that involved dripping and pouring paint directly onto a canvas rolled on the floor. Pollock was inspired to work on the floor by the sand paintings of the Navaho Indians. Gesture and movement played an important role in Pollock’s work, allowing him to create spontaneous marks on canvas and to express emotion and raw energy.
Postcolonial
Set of ideas developed in reaction to colonialism. Colonialism is associated with the forced settlement and control of an area of land (colony) by an outside political or geographic power. Historically, colonising powers have imposed their own cultural, social and other values on the places and people they colonise. Post colonialism is a movement away from colonial power, and the cultural, economic and other dependencies associated with it. Post colonialism questions previously accepted views of history and also recognises the cultural, social and other rights of indigenous people.
Postmodernism
Applies to wide ranging developments in philosophy, architecture, art, literature and culture that have influenced contemporary society since the 1970s. It was generally a reaction to modernism (see modernism for definition). In the visual arts it involved a rejection of many of the ideas and values associated with modernism. Humour and irony were often used to question established ideas and approaches. Many postmodern artworks include images or forms appropriated form earlier art styles or popular culture.
Preston, Margaret (1875–1963)
An Australian artist influential during the 1920s–1940s. She attempted to create a uniquely Australian art by developing imagery that reflected Australian colours and style. Preston believed that Aboriginal art provided the key to establishing a national art and used many motifs and colours inspired by Aboriginal culture. She was one of the first Australian artists to recognise the importance and significance of Aboriginal art, but many later artists and Aborigines saw her approach as trivializing or reducing Aboriginal art to kitsch (see kitsch for definition).
Primitivism
An art style that reacted against the ideas of the Enlightenment (see Enlightenment for definition). It highlights tribal cultures that appear to be free from the restraint of Western culture. In art it is an attempt to capture the raw essence and mystical beauty of objects and images, however it is now understood that this is a simplistic interpretation of other cultures.
Psychoanalysis
A process that investigates mental processes, by examining the ‘unconscious’. This often involves the study of dreams. Many mental disorders can be understood and treated by studying the unconscious. Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) developed this theory in the late 1880s. This study had a strong influence on the arts in the 19th century, especially the Surrealist movement instigated by artist/poet, Andre Breton (1896–1966).
Reynolds, Henry (born 1938)
An eminent Australian historian and published author. Much of his recent research and articles have highlighted the violent conflict between Indigenous Australian and European colonists during the colonisation of Australia.
Quadroon
A derogatory and racist term used to describe people of ‘mixed blood’. This term literally means a person that is one quarter black and was mainly used in the United States in the 19th century. It tries to quantify how ‘black’ or ‘white’ a person is.
Signifiers
Are signs or symbols that carry meaning beyond their literal interpretation. They stand for or represent different meanings and ideas.
Sovereign rights or Sovereignty
The right to act as the supreme law making authority.
Terra Nullius
A Latin term which translates as ‘Empty Land’ or ‘Nobody’s Land’. Captain Cook declared Australia to be ‘Terra Nullius’ when he sailed into Botany Bay on April 28th 1770, so that he could claim Australia for Britain. This proclamation ignored the fact that hundreds of different groups of Indigenous people occupied the land.
Theosophy
Is a religious philosophy which has its basis in Buddhist thought. It proclaims the unity of the universe and that all religions have a portion of spiritual truth, and therefore will help humanity evolve to greater perfection.
Triptych
A painting that is divided into three separate sections. This idea developed during the Middle Ages when altar pieces were made in three parts. The central panel was usually flanked by smaller panels on either side and told a religious story or an episode in the Bible.