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Australian art

Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Untitled (heads or tails),



Jonathan Jones


1978 -

Language groups

Wiradjuri, Southern Riverine region, Kamilaroi, Northern Riverine region


The forms and patterning of light tubes in 'Untitled (heads or tails)' 2009 are derived from the traditional Aboriginal carved trees of inland New South Wales. As the artist has written of this work:

"'Untitled (heads or tails)' references Koori 'marayarrang', carved scar trees, which are incised with traditional cultural designs similar to that found on shields, boomerangs and possum skin cloaks. These designs are specific to NSW and are part an important part of Koori culture.
Many of the scar trees were cut down and sent to museum collections around Australia.
The last major grove when logged filled two tucks. A coin was casually tossed to decide which truck load of traditional cultural material would go to which museum, hence the title of this artwork.
'Untitled (heads or tails)' also references Roman and Grecian columns, drawing a connections between traditional cultures, Indigenous Australia and classical Roman and Greek culture."

As with all of Jones' light works, the units radiate heat and intense white light, creating a field of energy in the gallery. The formal regularity of the design of uniform industrially manufactured units recalls the light sculptures of such minimal artists as American Dan Flavin or, in Australia, Peter Kennedy. Yet Jones' work has a skein of other references alien to minimalism such as the specific reference to carved trees in this work, and in other works inspiration from natural forms found in the Australian landscape, motifs on Aboriginal shields and from patterns in domestic design. Jones' synthesises these particular cultural references with the history of formal abstraction and light works in 20th-century western art. His works very muteness on the questions of identity and content that knowledge of its specific references may raise is in itself eloquent and perhaps by extension, political.


Other Title

Untitled (domestic heads or tails)

Place where the work was made

Sydney New South Wales Australia

Cultural origin




Media categories

Installation , Sculpture

Materials used

powder-coated steel, fluorescent tubes and fittings, electrical cable


editions w/x & y/z of 26 +1AP


62.0 x 40.0 x 40.0 cm each unit

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Anonymous gift 2012. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Jonathan Jones

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Natasha Bullock and Alexie Glass, Parallel collisions: 2012 Adelaide Biennial of Australian art, 'The artist's works', pg. 9-140, Adelaide, 2012, 68 (colour illus.), 317.

Stephen Gilchrist, Octopus 9: I forget to forget, 'I forget to forget', pg. 14-16, Melbourne, 2010, 2 (colour illus., detail), 3 (colour illus., detail), 14, 20, back cover (colour illus., detail).

Lily Hibberd, Column 5, 'Jonathan Jones: Untitled (heads or tails)', pg. 78-85, 2010, 78-85.