Enfilade

Exhibitions | Colony: Australia and Colony: Frontier Wars

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on April 9, 2018

Press release (6 February 2018) for the exhibitions:

Colony: Australia 1770–1861
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 15 March — 15 July 2018

Colony: Frontier Wars
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 15 March — 2 September 2018

NGV Australia will host two complementary exhibitions that explore Australia’s complex colonial history and the art that emerged during and in response to this period. Presented concurrently, these two ambitious and large-scale exhibitions, Colony: Australia 1770–1861 and Colony: Frontier Wars, offer differing perspectives on the colonisation of Australia.

Richard Browne (illustrator), Insects, 1813, p. 52 in Select Specimens from Nature of the Birds Animals &c &c of New South Wales collected and arranged by Thomas Skottowe, 1813, watercolour (Sydney: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, SAFE/PXA 555).

Featuring an unprecedented assemblage of loans from major public institutions around Australia, Colony: Australia 1770–1861 is the most comprehensive survey of Australian colonial art to date. The exhibition explores the rich diversity of art, craft, and design produced between 1770, the arrival of Lieutenant James Cook and the Endeavour, and 1861, the year the NGV was established.

The counterpoint to Colony: Australia 1770–1861, Colony: Frontier Wars presents a powerful response to colonisation through a range of historical and contemporary works by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists dating from pre-contact times to present day. From nineteenth-century drawings by esteemed Wurundjeri artist and leader, William Barak, to the iridescent LED light boxes of Jonathan Jones, this exhibition reveals how Aboriginal people have responded to the arrival of Europeans with art that is diverse, powerful, and compelling.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV said: “Cook’s landing marks the beginning of a history that still has repercussions today. This two-part exhibition presents different perspectives of a shared history with unprecedented depth and scope, featuring a breadth of works never-before-seen in Victoria. In order to realise this ambitious project, we have drawn upon the expertise and scholarship of many individuals from both within and outside the NGV. We are extremely grateful to the Aboriginal Elders and advisory groups who have offered their guidance, expertise and support,” said Ellwood.

Port Jackson Painter, Half-length Portrait of Gna-na-gna-na, ca. 1790, gouache (Canberra, National Library of Australia, Rex Nan Kivell Collection NK144/D).

Joy Murphy-Wandin, Senior Wurundjeri Elder, said: “I am overwhelmed at the magnitude and integrity of this display: such work and vision is a credit to the curatorial team. The NGV is to be congratulated for providing a visual truth that will enable the public to see, and hopefully understand, First Peoples’ heartache, pain and anger. Colony: Australia 1770–1861 / Frontier Wars is a must-see for all if we are to realise and action true reconciliation.”

Charting key moments of history, life, and culture in the colonies, Colony: Australia 1770–1861 includes over 600 diverse and significant works, including examples of historical Aboriginal cultural objects, early watercolours, illustrated books, drawings, prints, paintings, sculpture, and photographs, to a selection of furniture, fashion, textiles, decorative arts, and even taxidermy specimens.

Highlights from the exhibition include a wondrous ‘cabinet of curiosities’ showcasing the earliest European images of Australian flowers and animals, including the first Western image of a kangaroo and illustrations by the talented young watercolourist Sarah Stone. Examples of early colonial cabinetmaking also feature, including the convict made and decorated Dixson chest containing shells and natural history specimens, as well as a rarely seen panorama of Melbourne in 1841 will also be on display.

Following the development of Western art and culture, the exhibition includes early drawings and paintings by convict artists such as convicted forgers Thomas Watling and Joseph Lycett; the first oil painting produced in the colonies by professional artist John Lewin; work by the earliest professional female artists, Mary Morton Allport, Martha Berkeley and Theresa Walker; landscapes by John Glover and Eugene von Guérard; photographs by the first professional photographer in Australia, George Goodman, and a set of Douglas Kilburn’s silver-plated daguerreotypes, which are the earliest extant photographs of Indigenous peoples.

Colony: Frontier Wars attests to the resilience of culture and community, and addresses difficult aspects of Australia’s shared history, including dispossession and the stolen generation, through the works of Julie Gough, Brook Andrew, Maree Clarke, Ricky Maynard, Marlene Gilson, Julie Dowling, S. T. Gill, J. W. Lindt, Gordon Bennett, Arthur Boyd, Tommy McRae, Christian Thompson, and many more.

Giving presence to the countless makers whose identities have been lost as a consequence of colonialism, Colony: Frontier Wars also includes a collection of anonymous photographic portraits and historical cultural objects, including shields, clubs, spear throwers and spears, by makers whose names, language groups and Countries were not recorded at the time of collection. Challenging global museum conventions, the exhibition will credit the subjects and makers of these cultural objects as ‘once known’ rather than ‘unknown’.

Colony: Australia 1770–1861 / Frontier Wars (Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2018), 394 pages, ISBN: 9781925432503, $50.

This publication accompanies the two-part exhibition Colony: Australia 1770–1861 and Colony: Frontier Wars, which explores Australia’s shared history. Featuring works from the National Gallery of Victoria and key collections throughout Australia, it highlights the multiple perspectives on our colonial history through new scholarship and first-person statements from contemporary artists. This volume is a valuable addition to existing analyses of Australia’s complex colonial past.

Contributors
Brook Andrew, Robert Andrew, Louise Anemaat, Alisa Bunbury, Maree Clarke, Bindi Cole Chocka, Michael Cook, Carol Cooper, Julie Dowling, Amanda Dunsmore, Rebecca Edwards, Daina Fletcher, Elle Freak, Joanna Gilmour, Dr Ted Gott, Dr Julie Gough, Genevieve Grieves, Dr David Hansen, Peter Hughes, David Hurlston, Julia Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Cathy Leahy, Greg Lehman, Dr Donna Leslie, Dr Jane Lydon, John McPhee, Kimberley Moulton, Aunty Joy Murphy-Wandin AO, Richard Neville, Sarina Noordhuis-Fairfax, John Packham, Steaphan Paton, Cara Pinchbeck, Elspeth Pitt, Dr Joseph Pugliese, r e a, Beckett Rozentals, Dr Lynette Russell, Myles Russell-Cook, Judith Ryan AM, Yhonnie Scarce, Caitlin Sutton, Dr Christian Thompson, James Tylor (Possum), Michael Varcoe-Cocks, Judy Watson, H. J. Wedge, Danielle Whitfield, Nat Williams, Susan van Wyk.

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