National Gallery of Victoria Education Resource
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
Walk through the exhibition space. What are the main ideas and issues that emerge from the artworks. What is it about the work that suggests this?
Describe the way the artworks change in style and appearance as you walk through the different gallery spaces.
Describe the different ideas/themes in each gallery space. Why have the works been arranged in this way?
List and explain the different materials and techniques Gordon Bennett explores throughout this exhibition.
Choose an artwork from at least 3 of the following different periods/themes:
- Early work – late 1980s
- Early 1990s work
- John Citizen
- Home décor
- Notes to Basquiat
- Abstract work
Identify the key ideas, issues or questions explored in each work.
Analyse how Bennett/Citizen uses art elements, design principles, symbols and/or images to communicate these ideas, issues or questions.
Gordon Bennett enjoys creating his artworks while listening to music. He especially likes Hip Hop, Jazz and Rap.
What evidence can you see of these musical influences within his work in relation to the way he uses art elements and principles?
Analyse an artwork to support your answer.
Gordon Bennett uses text and words consistently throughout this exhibition. List words that strike you as you view each artwork within the exhibition.
How effective do you think these words are? Explain your answer by using specific artworks to support your response.
Gordon Bennett repeats many symbols/objects/words throughout this exhibition.
Choose 5 that you think are important.
Use the grid below to list and explain the way Gordon Bennett uses these in each context.
Artwork/s where this appears
Analyse possible meanings
Draw the symbol/object/word, in the style of Gordon Bennett
View the video, Performance with object for the expiation of guilt (violence and grief remix) 1996.
Explain what you think it means. Quote specific images and scenes to help explain your answer.
Choose an artwork that disturbs you. Explain your response.
Choose an artwork/series that you don’t like. Explain your response.
Choose an artwork/series that surprises you. Explain your response.
Choose an artwork that encourages you to reflect on Australian history. Explain your response.
Choose the artwork that interests you the most. Explain your response.
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.
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.
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.
In psychology, it is the second self, or a person with a second personality.
A collective term that describes English, Irish and Scottish cultural heritage.
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.
The study of the origin and behaviour of human kind. This includes religious and cultural customs and beliefs.
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.
An image or portrait that exaggerates and distorts the appearance of a person or object but is still recognisable.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The description and study of various cultural and racial groups. The study of a particular human society to learn and understand its culture.
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.
The systematic and deliberate destruction of a race of people.
Refer to Old Testament books within the Bible that tell the story of the special covenant between the Israelites and their God.
A body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class or culture.
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.
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.
In art this term often refers to artists that work using two or more different art forms and/or materials within their art practice.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.