Reflections on Australianism (published 2019)
Available for pre-order now, contact the artist
Reflections on Australianism is a document that revisits artist Rebecca Wilson’s exhibition entitled Australianism held at Mary Place Gallery in Paddington, 2007. Looking at the issues traversed within Wilson’s paintings through a 2019 lens, we discover that they are still relevant nearly 13 years later.
This collection of images, research and observations by the artist, reflects on Wilson’s social commentary paintings, including her Blake Prize Finalist piece of 2007; Ned’s Burqa, and how Australianism influenced future bodies of work investigating similar themes of heroes, villains, icons and identity.
Through her Australianism commentary she asks questions about Australia’s identity and with humour, she challenges our notions of who we are and what is happening in our society. Her use of humour and the familiar invites the viewer to contemplate the more serious themes underlying these seemingly entertaining images.
After a period of time living and working overseas the artist returned to Australia and was surprised by a noticeable shift in our society. Various local events such as the Children Overboard Incident, NT Intervention and the Cronulla Riots revealed a very different Australia emerging from the shadows. In a world that changed enormously post the 911 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Wilson refers to a climate of fear she believes has continued to influence our society, government policies and our approach to humanity since that time.
The artist considers it important to be able to laugh at ourselves in an effort to understand what is going on around us and create change. ‘Humour is important to me. I think it helps us to diffuse and assimilate concepts, especially when things are hard to identify, digest, understand, witness or change.’ Rebecca Wilson
Here is an excerpt from Reflections on Australianism; Merino Nightmare – discussing the impacts of white settlement on Aboriginal land management practices, people and culture.
A Portrait of Landscape and Time in Hill End: Myth-making, Heroes and Villains (published 2018)
Published in October 2018, to coincide with the travelling exhibition of the same title, this book is available at BooksPlus Bathurst and through the artist.
A Portrait of Landscape and Time in Hill End: Myth-making, Heroes and Villains is an exhibition of paintings and research, with an accompanying book. The works unearth lesser known stories of the remote and iconic town of Hill End. They disrupt common narratives of the region, questioning who the real heroes and villains are in recorded history and how we create myths and icons.
‘The line that divides good and evil cuts through the heart of every man’, is a quote from Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn which introduces the reader and the viewer to the artist’s words and narrative images. The works span from early white settlement to present day, avoiding a normal sequence of time. Events from 200 years ago co-exist with events from the 21st century highlighting the constant presence of ghosts from the past in contemporary Hill End.
The artist’s paintings and research introduce Bathurst War hero and Wiradyuri leader, Windradyne and the shameful declaration of Martial Law in 1824. The events around this time are a significant, but often ignored, part of Australia’s history. It was a devastating attempt at genocide against Aboriginal people. Featured at the beginning of the book is a poem entitled “This Land” by Kalmadyne Goombridge, a proud Gamilaroi man who is Wiradyuri sung. He generously contributed his work as a symbol of our communities working together, to tell the truth about our shared histories.
There are further tales of murder and racism in the gold rush era featuring Sammy Poo, also known as Cranky Sam, Australia’s only Chinese bushranger, who eventually hanged at Bathurst in 1865. The journey through time acknowledges artists who have visited or lived in the region from the 1940’s and 1960’s, including such lesser known figures as Jean Bellette, who remains the only woman to have won the Sulman Prize more than once. Wilson makes reference to the imagery of Brett Whiteley, Michael Johnson and other artists. She also raises questions about the apparent lack of consequences for Donald Friend’s paedophilia, his activities in Hill End and beyond and why special allowances have been made for unacceptable and often criminal behaviour from specific male artists.
Kerry Negara, is the maker of the documentary ‘A Loving Friend’, a work that is now on curriculum lists in main universities across Australia, Indonesia and in New York. She writes of Wilson’s work, “I am simultaneously fascinated and upset by the extraordinary amount of misinformation and myth making that our societies operate on. Rebecca’s offering here (A Portrait of Landscape and Time in Hill End) is a perceptive collection of the highest order.
Here is an excerpt from A Portrait of Landscape and Time in Hill End: Myth-making, Heroes and Villains
Kate Kelly: Sister of an Outlaw (published 2015)
Available through Gang Gang Gallery Lithgow, BooksPlus Bathurst, Forbes Tourist Information Centre, Forbes Museum, Dymocks Albany and directly through the artist.
Kate Kelly: Sister of an Outlaw, tells a tale of Kate Kelly’s intriguing and tragic life. A resourceful, brave and talented woman, Kate played a big part in the legend of Ned Kelly.
Kate Kelly adored her brothers and assisted them while they were hiding out, riding as a decoy and a messenger. She met with the Governor of Victoria and marched in the streets of Melbourne to try to spare Ned’s life. For a short time after Ned’s death she travelled with her brother Jim and performed to huge crowds. They were shut down by the police and mocked in the press.
Kate lived out the last fourteen years of her life in Forbes. She married William “Bricky” Foster and they had six children but only three survived. She died under mysterious circumstances when she was only 36 years old. Missing for over a week, Kate’s body was found in the lake in October, 1898. An inquest found that Kate had drowned but it was unclear how she had ended up in the water.
This story is based on paintings and research conducted over five years by artist Rebecca Wilson. This fresh approach to Kate Kelly’s short but eventful life provides an exploration of facts, folklore and imaginings, as Kate’s spirit remembers her life to us from the ‘other side’.