‘Pow­er­ful’ new art for SAM

Shepparton News - - NEWS -

Shep­par­ton Art Mu­seum’s lat­est ac­qui­si­tion de­picts the ar­rival of the First Fleet in 1788 through an indige­nous lens. SAM direc­tor Re­becca Coates said Cook’s

Land­ing 2018 by Wathau­rung/Wadawur­rung artist Mar­lene Gil­son was a pow­er­ful con­ver­sa­tion piece that in­vited au­di­ence en­gage­ment.

‘‘As well as be­ing a mar­vel­lous work by an im­por­tant Aus­tralian artist, the ac­qui­si­tion sig­nals Shep­par­ton Art Mu­seum’s com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing Abo­rig­i­nal artists from South-East Vic­to­ria, through the ac­qui­si­tion of work and pro­gram­ming,’’ Dr Coates said.

‘‘It en­ables us to en­gage with ideas cen­tral to our place, peo­ple and con­text, and a broader First Na­tions dis­cus­sion.’’

Ms Gil­son lives on her home Coun­try Wathau­rung/Wadawur­rung in the small ru­ral town of Gor­don, 25 km east of Bal­larat.

As a child, Ms Gil­son’s grand­mother made sure she would know about her an­ces­tors, their his­tory and cul­ture through sto­ry­telling, at times by draw­ing in the sand.

It was Ms Gil­son’s fam­ily that en­cour­aged her to take up paint­ing 10 years ago as a way to oc­cupy her mind as she over­came a se­ri­ous ill­ness.

Through art she was able to con­tinue her in­her­ited sto­ry­telling abil­i­ties by paint­ing wooden blocks carved by her hus­band Barry in var­i­ous shapes, de­pict­ing whole scenes of lit­tle vil­lages for her grand­chil­dren.

Cook’s Land­ing 2018 is a re-imag­ined scene of Cap­tain James Cook and the First Fleet ar­riv­ing at Botany Bay in 1788.

Dr Coates said in se­lect­ing the work, SAM cu­ra­tors had noted Ms Gil­son’s work chal­lenged main­stream his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tives, in which Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der voices and ex­pe­ri­ences had of­ten been ab­sent or played a pe­riph­eral role.

The work de­picts Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in a tra­di­tional set­ting, as well as dressed as Cap­tain Cook and those of the First Fleet ar­riv­ing and set­ting up camp.

Cu­ra­tors had noted this ap­proach was sim­i­lar to that of Aus­tralian doc­u­men­tary film­maker Don Feather­stone, whose 1986 film BabaKi­ue­ria fea­tured the late Bob Maza along­side sev­eral other no­table First Peo­ples as cen­tral char­ac­ters dressed in his­toric British mil­i­tary uni­form, sim­i­lar to that worn by the First Fleet.

Cu­ra­tors had also noted the use of satir­i­cal hu­mour in this work is both a cul­tural ex­pres­sion and a ges­ture to in­vite ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the power struc­tures at play.

Dr Coates said the artist’s use of hu­mour al­lowed the au­di­ence to en­gage with the work in a light-hearted way, but clev­erly about a sig­nif­i­cant event in his­tory.

She said the work was an im­por­tant ac­qui­si­tion for the mu­seum.

‘‘Mar­lene’s paint­ings are whim­si­cal, won­der­ful, and im­por­tantly, en­able us to reimag­ine Aus­tralia’s his­tory from var­i­ous points of view,’’ she said.

Re­gard­ing the price paid for the paint­ing, Dr Coates said ne­go­ti­a­tions with artists on buy­ing art­works al­ways re­mained con­fi­den­tial.

‘‘But I can say, this art­work is ex­cep­tional value for money,’’ Dr Coates said.

by Mar­lene Gil­son, com­mu­nity/lan­guage group: Wathau­rung/Wadawur­rung. Acrylic on linen.

New ad­di­tion: SAM’s lat­est ac­qui­si­tion — Cook’s Land­ing 2018 —

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