By Digging Deeper into the lives of four unique and diverse Indigenous artists we discover that they have common motivating themes, their art, their Aboriginality and their dual heritage.
How do you talk about these things that have happened to you and from your history? Are you angry? Can you stir passion and emotion? Can you engage in a deeper, more fundamental way and focus more on the regeneration of cultural practices?
These artists are now in the midst of creating works for major exhibitions, and prestigious prizes that offer powerful ways to tell their stories.
They are seriously breaking ground.
Urban art deals with social and cultural issues and makes important political statements focusing on, for example, the stolen generation, land rights, and reconciliation.
There also tends to be a probing nature to the art: a questioning of identity or a challenge to colonial accounts of Australian history. ‘Urban’ art is often provocative, confronting, humorous and playful.
Those artists under the umbrella of ‘urban’ art are both self-taught and professionally trained, and use multiple forms of media.
Ben McKeown’s painting “I Wonder!” asks what it was like for one side of his family, as colonizers, to be in part responsible for the displacement of the other side of his family?
‘I wonder’, the film, asks Indigenous artists with dual heritage how they deal with their background through art and whether they become angry and provocative or focus more on the regeneration of cultural practices?
MAREE CLARKE, BLAK DOUGLAS, PENNY EVANS, BEN McKEOWN
Blak Douglas’ work draws you in with its vibrant colours and design but when you come closer the black fist comes out of the canvas and smacks you in the face. He may be critical of the art establishment but he plays it like a pro. After 4 attempts at the Archibald will he win this time?
Maree continually goes from one incredible project to another. The Metro tunnel project is huge but she is already well known for her Ritual and Ceremony exhibition, which focuses on regenerating what has been lost or forgotten. She’s a gentle soul making her work, subtly affecting people’s perceptions.
Ben’s health took him away from the heart of the Melbourne art scene just as he was making an impression, and it has been hard to get back in. He is writing a PHD while living on country and using the clay there to create sculptures for the Selzer Prize. Is this his last chance to get back?
Penny has been through a lot of torment in her life and overcome it through her work. Now she’s on a mission to reset the balance of the environment on country. Her struggle now is not just about herself.
Maree is a Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung woman who has been an multi-media artist, curator and filmmaker for over 25 years, and grew up in northwest Victoria. Maree became Victoria's first Aboriginal arts officer, working for the City of Port Phillip, and in 1988 she became the curator of the Koorie heritage Trust.
Blak Douglas, born from a Dhungatti Aboriginal father and a Caucasian mother, put simply, is a force of nature. His art practice has an urban aesthetic, delivering a message that is both muscular and profoundly important for our time. Political, absolutely—yet the fabric of his electric narrative has a fluidity that runs deeper than mere social commentary. His paintings always have something to say about social justice, often with irony and humor playing an important part and with his Aboriginal identity central to his work.
Ben McKeown of the Wirringu language group is a gentle provocateur. His life and work came to a crashing halt after he had a heart attack. He left the city and moved onto his family’s country living in an old bus with his partner surrounded with ducks, goats and chickens. Ben feels the weight of history is being revealed in his PHD. Contemplating his mortality, it is becoming increasingly important for Ben to finish his new work and create a legacy, but it’s not easy with his rehabilitation and the sometime isolation of his home on the Eyre Peninsula.
Penny Evans is a Gomilaroi woman who produces ceramics, and collaged, mixed media work on paper. She learnt of her heritage in her teens and suffered an identity crisis which led to the need for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. It was art that saved her life and launched her critical examination of culture and history.