We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

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Joan Ross Joan as a colonial woman looking at the future

vinyl acrylic and ink on card

101 x 75.5 cm

‘I really love birds,’ says Joan Ross, who has painted herself ‘as a colonial woman, with a headless bird, thinking about what we need to do to manage our collective future’.

‘Birds have survived for 150 million years, but the greed and selfishness of colonisation in the last few hundred years mean that species of birds (and other ancient creatures) are becoming extinct at an exponential rate.

‘I hold the bird in this self-portrait with so much love and care, but also with the sadness and irony of an embrace with a bird that has no head; a symbolic warning.

‘Without recognising ourselves as colonisers who have a long history of deeply embedded and destructive attitudes, we have no hope of changing our behaviour and our future.’

Born in Scotland, Ross lives and works in Sydney. She is known for grappling with Australia’s colonial legacy through her artistic practice, which spans from drawing to virtual reality. In 2017, she won the Sulman Prize.

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