From Sharne Wolff…
Richard Bell is one of Australia’s best-known artists on both the national and international stages. Much of Bell’s painting has appropriated work from the Western canon as a post-colonial critique but his series of three videos Scratch an Aussie 2008, Broken English 2009 and the recently completed Dinner Party 2013, are the stars of this show. The videos all provide powerfully visceral experiences. All three feature the artist and his comrade in arms, historian Gary Foley. Alongside them are an assortment of extras ranging from the gold bikini girls and budgie-smugglered boys of Scratch an Aussie to the red lipsticked well-to-do guests uttering cringe-inducing comments over sav blanc and oysters in the Dinner Party. Bell is angry about piecemeal attempts by white Australians to address racism. He cleverly masks his fury by making art that is appealing and funny while simultaneously challenging his audience.
The Australian Indigenous Education Foundation recently ran a campaign in major newspapers with a portrait of an imagined Aboriginal Prime Minister painted by artist Mathew Lynn overlaid with the words “This will never happen” adjacent to more text announcing “We say it can”. Bell has been campaigning against Australia’s treatment of Indigenous people for much of his life and this new exhibition Imagining Victory, like that ad campaign, is a visualisation of his desire for a different future. It’s difficult to imagine anyone can walk away without feeling moved.
Until August 11
Pic: Richard Bell, The Dinner Party, 2013, production still. Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.