The Black Fellas Dreaming Gallery on Oxford Street is terrible. The paintings in the window that we see as we walk past on our way to Taylor Square or the bottle shop are uniformly awful and we have never ever set foot inside, assuming it was another faux Aboriginal art gallery run by an excitable white guy with big mouth and no taste.
How wrong can you be? As we walked down Oxford Street one sunny Wednesday midday we stumbled into a press conference. There was a crew from the local Koori TV station, some sweaty photographers from the Wentworth Courier and various curious bystanders. After being welcomed by the reporter from the Koori TV crew – who acknowledged the indigenous land owners of Oxford Street – Gordon Syron the owner of Black Fellas Dreaming, was introduced to the gathering and he had something to say…
Syron had done a portrait of David Gulpilil and it hadn’t made the cut at the Archibald Prize. It had also been rejected from the Salon Des Refuses too. Syron, an Aboriginal artist with family connections to Gulpilil, had done his portrait and he was ‘questioning’ the selection process.
We had noticed his painting of Gulpilil in the shop window before and it was a useful reminder of the fact that no matter how average we thought Craig Ruddy’s prize winning picture was, it was actually rather good in comparison to most other things. That’s a rather piss weak assessment, we know, but in world of equivalence where everything is more or less the same, some slight difference is a good thing – even if it’s to be marked out as slightly crap, or slightly good – it’s better than nothing.
So what did Syron think of the Ruddy picture? “I commend the winner,” he said magnanimously. So what was his beef? “I question the selection process,” he repeated. “I don’t really know what the process is… but I am questioning it.”
As do we all. And that was pretty much the whole event. We went inside the gallery and had a look at the rest of the art. It was divided between quite good stuff by Syron that looked like a not so good version of H.J. Wedge and touristy stuff by a bloke named Walangari Karntawarra who is unafraid of bright colours.