Creative Dean Cross Asks Viewers To Make Their Own Stories

Dean Cross

Through the use of objects, multimedia and symbols, this dancerturned- artist isn’t telling stories but asking viewers to make up their own.

In the language of the arts community, Dean Cross is a “multidisciplinary” artist. But ask the Worimi creative himself and he offers a much better definition: he’s a “paratactical” artist. “It's actually a made-up word,” says Cross, laughing. “It's an expansion of ‘parataxis’, which is a sentence that still makes sense when you pull bits out of it. I like that as a methodological label for how I approach making work and building exhibitions.”

Cross’s energetic output is always changing and he often goes against the widely accepted norms of commercial art, where artists create bodies of work that are variations of a theme. Instead, he constructs a tapestry of stories within stories that come with an invitation for the audience to seek personal meaning.

A former choreographer, born on Ngunnawal/Ngambri Country, Cross has a unique perspective on expression and space and an improvisatory way of working. His decision to study and pursue art came when he felt drawn to painting and increasingly frustrated by the limitations of the body in dance. “It made sense for me to move into visual art, where I felt completely liberated.”

His latest work, Icarus, My Son, exemplifies his methods. The semi-autobiographical, immersive exhibition appropriates narratives from the Greek tragedy of Icarus and Daedalus. It centres on the experience of those in regional communities who feel their success is limited by location – a topic that, with the rise of remote working and the pull to home, could unearth many perspectives. “I feel that part of my job as an artist is to remind others we don’t necessarily need to have the answers and often the question is just as important. The works might read in one way but my hope for them is that they’re coated and loaded enough that there’ll be multitudes within.”

Exhibited at:

Yavuz Gallery, Sydney; Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), Adelaide; Australian Centre of Photography, Sydney; Artspace Sydney; Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth; Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.

Collections at:

AGSA, Adelaide; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; QUT Art Museum, Brisbane.


The Good Initiative Award, Goulburn Regional Art Gallery (2020); School of Art and Design Drawing Prize, Australian National University (2017); M16 Drawing Prize Framing Award (2016).

Breakthrough moment:

Cross’s inclusion in Tarnanthi 2017 at the AGSA. His work subsequently went into the gallery’s permanent collection.

What the critics say:

“Dean approaches an investigation of colonisation with pathos but also humour. His work is at the forefront of examining where we are as a nation. A nation divided.” Sebastian Goldspink, curator of  2022 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art.

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Image credit: Zan Wimberley

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