AUSTRALIA VI Theatre and remembrance of death
A new place re-inserted into our cultural imagination
A real place pre-existed in a space dark and in contest
A space in such conflict that generosity finds it hard to speak and compassion needs no introduction
A space full of dreams, real and imagined
A place seemingly empty
A place full of desire
A foam white and dirty spreading in clutches
A foam tasting like sugar but hardened with wax
A story in large images new and compounded
A story breaking the past, killing the strength of that visible past
Brook Andrew, 2013
'AUSTRALIA VI' by Brook Andrew emanates from a series of large-scale works that re-present a selection of 1860s etchings by Gustav Mützel. Commissioned by Prussian naturalist William Blandowski following his expedition of 1854–55, Mützel's etchings depict the cultural activities of Australian Aboriginal peoples. Mützel, however, did not visit Australia himself, but rather worked from materials provided by Blandowski to develop his etchings.
By importing such images into his work, Andrew problematises ideas about truth and representation. He highlights the fact that 'few art works...represent fantastical Australian Aboriginal cultural activities and landscapes without...paternalistic cravings'. Reflecting on European curiosity, Andrew presents an explorer's view of Aboriginal life away from the British colonies. He examines how Australia is perceived from the outside looking in - a question with both historical and contemporary resonance.
In 'AUSTRALIA VI', Andrew presents an enlarged version of Mützel’s originally small nineteenth-century bookplate, shrouded by the work's foil surface. At its significantly expanded size, the image reflects the genre of history painting - the canonical paintings of Western art which document historical and mythologised events on a scale that is both intimidating and awe-inspiring. Yet, the artist challenges and subverts this genre, producing an enigmatic work that critically disrupts conventional viewpoints. Its metallic finish conjures romantic notions of Aboriginal culture; the lure and magic perceived by nineteenth-century Europeans.
mixed media on Belgian linen
1/3 + 2 AP
200.2 x 300.0 x 5.0 cm stretcher
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Geoff Ainsworth AM 2014
Not on display
© Brook Andrew. Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
Shown in 1 exhibition
2014 Adelaide biennal of Australian art: Dark heart, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 01 Mar 2014–11 May 2014