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Ben Quilty Pacific self portrait 2014


Curator Dunja Rmandic


  Micro Galleries - Sky & Garden

  supported by wesfarmers arts

  19 May 2016 January 2017 | FREE





AGWA is celebrating the opening of two new display spaces, Garden and Sky. These Micro Galleries will launch with large works – accompanied by smaller works – from the Wesfarmers Arts Collection following the idea of ‘large works in small spaces’. The contrast between the giant works and the dimensions of the Micro Galleries creates an exciting dynamic.

The project came about through a generous donation by Wesfarmers Ltd — The Gallery’s Principal Partner — to allow AGWA to refurbish and repurpose these two spaces, initially, for the loan and display of the largest works in the Wesfarmers collection. With a planned relocation into new premises that has more views but less wall space, and a policy to have everything from the Collection on display, Wesfarmers’ Curator Helen Carroll’s initiative to have the largest works displayed at AGWA enables them to meet this commitment and gives AGWA visitors a rare glimpse into one of Australia’s preeminent corporate collections.

The new spaces are intended to offer the opportunity to create unique artistic conversations. As such, the first display begins with a conversation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists across the two galleries.


Curator TV


Brook Andrew
Brook Andrew is a contemporary and multidisciplinary artist born into the Wiradjuri language. His series AUSTRALIA 2013, which this work is a part of, amplifies the colonial Arcadian vision for scrutiny. Using a series of etchings by German artist Gustav Mützel — who never visited Australia but worked from naturalist William Blandowski’s accounts of Aboriginal people in South East Australia in the 1850s — Andrew enlarges these scenes and transforms them into paintings against a gold-leaf background. His previous works questioned the politics of representation of Aboriginal people historically, but while the representations of Australia’s first people in AUSTRALIA are twice removed from the original source, Andrew neither denies nor affirms their historic authenticity, preferring to keep them alive as simultaneous realities to white colonial stories. For Andrew, making these into paintings against gold background is a gesture of placing ‘Aboriginal culture in the centre of a history-painting genre’.

William Delafield Cook
William Delafield Cook’s work A Haystack 1983 is a monumental folly. Deliberately enveloping and demanding, it appears in front of the viewer like an alien mothership landing. Well-known for his Australian landscapes painted in Britain, Delafield Cook seems to have illustrated the line ‘We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil’ from the Australian national anthem. The hay of this land, Delafield Cook’s work seems to say, will abound into eternity. While the technique with which he executed his work is hyper-realistic, his landscapes are often fictional places thus playing on the idea of the imaginary.

Richard Bell
Richard Bell’s large painting Omega (Bell’s Theorem) 2013 is one of his five theorems — statements considered true without proof — with which he has challenged key cultural power struggles in Australian art. Although often called ‘provocative’, he subtly and succinctly manages to conjure contemporary debates about Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal identity and relations in Australia, highlighting that art production is often a good place to look to in order to better understand these. Statements such as ‘Aboriginal Art: It’s a White Thing’ and ‘Australian Art Does Not Exist’ hit at the heart of the polemic of cultural and monetary value when it comes to Aboriginal art. The monumental prophesy in Omega that ‘in the end there will be painting’—no conceptual or performance art—is not entirely comical either, as the predominant preference for collectors tends to be painting, specifically with Aboriginal art. As a historical lesson, Bell would like us to remember that painting on canvas only started for Aboriginal artists in the 1970s at an instigation of a white art teacher, but he’d also like us to remember that some of the oldest art in the world is rock painting done by the first people of this continent some 40,000 years ago.

Richard Bell Omega (Bell's Theorem) 2013

Jan Billycan Kirriwirri 2011 William Delafield Cook A haystack 1983

Ben Quilty
The work of contemporary artist Ben Quilty is well known for his Rorschach technique suggestive of polarities and psychological turmoil. His Pacific self portrait 2014 attempts to place the artist figure into the region his country is part of as well as its history, but with questionable success. Well-known for work that he produced as an official war artist in Afghanistan 2011, as well as his fight to prevent the death penalty for two Australians in Indonesia, this work can be read as an attempt to evoke pacifism and calm. Yet Quilty’s work is large, gestural and ‘loud’ and seems still charged with the energy of conflict and combat.

Jan Billycan
Jan Billycan was one of the oldest of a group of artists that emerged from the Bidyadanga community in the Kimberley. Her work Kirriwirri 2011, often painted by the artist, is a portrait of her father’s country and her clan with the same name. Located in the Great Sandy Desert of WA, it was the birthplace of the artist and a region she knew intimately, having walked it with her parents and learing about the significant sites and the traditions connected with those places. When the waterholes began to dry up, her family moved to the coastal community of Bidyadanga. Mrs Billycan, one of the leading Aboriginal painters of her generation, was also a healer who saw in ‘x-ray’ vision, translating this gift into her painterly technique.

Jack Britten
Like many of his contemporaries, Jack Britten painted his Country. Britten’s work Purnululu 2001 depicts the artist’s vision of the Bungle Bungle Ranges to which he had direct ceremonial rights, land ownership and caretaker responsibilities. Having been taught by family to use traditional painting materials as a young man, he used this knowledge later in life when he started painting on canvas in the early 1980s. One of the original Warmun artists, Britten’s technique has both defined East Kimberley style and influenced the generation of painters that followed.

Rammey Ramsey
Rammey Ramsey’s work Warlawoon Country 2011 depicts the land where he was born and is also the name he was given in Gija, his language. Like Jack Britten, Ramsey worked as a stockman in East Kimberley before turning to painting in 2000. But unlike his predecessor, and many other East Kimberley artists specifically associated with Warmun arts community, Ramsey’s style is composed of bright, primary colours with tonal combinations and gestural marks, standing in contrast to traditional ochre painting defined by blocks of unified colour. Before making it into the Wesfarmers Collection, this work was used in ceremony at Warmun.


Ben Quilty

Pacific self portrait 2014

oil on canvas

190 x 240 cm

Wesfarmers Collection, Perth

© Ben Quilty, reproduced courtesy of the artist

Richard Bell

Omega (Bell's Theorem) 2013

Acrylic on linen

two parts: 180 x 480 cm (overall)

Wesfarmers Collection, Perth

© Richard Bell, reproduced courtesy of the artist

Jan Billycan
acrylic on board
two parts: 90 x 120 cm (overall)
Wesfarmers Collection, Perth
© Jan Billycan, reproduced courtesy of the artist's estate

William Delafield Cook
A haystack 1983
acrylic on canvas
189 x 385 cm
Wesfarmers Collection, Perth
© William Delafield Cook, reproduced courtesy of the
artist’s estate






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