A collaboration between two of the world’s leading cultural institutions – the UK’s Tate and Sydney’s MCA – is taking Australian art (and stories) to an international stage.
Gordon Bennett rarely gave interviews. The late Brisbane artist, who was born to an Aboriginal mother and an English father, preferred his art to speak for him. Now, two years after his demise, it’s his work that’s doing the talking – not only for him but also for his country and people.
As part of a five-year collaboration between Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the UK’s Tate, works by several Australian artists will be exhibited at the Tate. The aim of the Qantas-supported project is to raise the profile of Australian art on the world stage and to share poignant stories from Down Under with an international audience.
Bennett is among the first group of artists whose works will be seen at the Tate; the others are Judy Watson, Susan Norrie and Vernon Ah Kee.
“Gordon had a way of painting and portraying shocking historical Australian colonial events in a manner that stirred emotions,” says Leanne Bennett, his widow.
Two of Bennett’s works will be displayed at the Tate, including Possession Island (Abstraction), a 1991 painting that depicts James Cook claiming the eastern coast of Australia in 1770 and hints at the imminent dispossession of the Aboriginal people.
Also showing are Judy Watson’s A Preponderance of Aboriginal Blood (a collection of 15 etchings and one colophon from the artist’s book) and Vernon Ah Kee’s Tall Man (a four-channel video installation about the 2004 riots that took place on Palm Island in northern Queensland). You can check out the works currently on display at the MCA before they travel to the UK in 2017.
The inclusion of Bennett’s works in the project is a proud moment for Leanne and her family. “Our daughter, Caitlin, and I still feel his presence,” she says. “We suspect he is observing all this recognition and attention and quietly celebrating his life with a glass of red wine or two.”
Image courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Australia