Artists after Gordon Bennett:
Speaking through Text / Corresponding with the Past

This event took place on 7 October 2021, as part of the Power Institute’s lecture series Linework: Lines, Lineages and Networks in Indigenous Art.

Artists Vernon Ah Kee, Julie Gough and Warraba Weatherall join the editors of Gordon Bennett: Selected Writings, Angela Goddard and Tim Riley Walsh, to consider Bennett’s indelible impact. Moderated by the Power Institute’s Deputy Director, Stephen Gilchrist.

… I see your work as pointing toward a centre
(to put it crudely, but can it be put any other way with words?).
—Gordon Bennett,
letter to Eugene Carchesio, 28 February 1992

Gordon Bennett’s three decades of practice represent an ongoing conversation with historical texts and images, and Selected Writings reveals he corresponded just as closely with the work of his peers. His 1992 letter to Eugene Carchesio, a fellow artist, occasional collaborator and frequent correspondent, continues on from the quote above:

I too am a ‘disciple of silence’, though that may be hard for some people to believe. My strategy has been to point out what the centre is not, what identity is not, especially for Aboriginal people (because as any metaphysician will tell you, a healthy identity is first necessary before any identity can be transcended).

Despite his considered dedication to silence on matters of identity—which even led to a ‘Non-Performance’ whereby he declined to speak about his work at public events from the year of this letter onwards—Bennett always used the combination of text and images to speak powerfully, even loudly, about identity through his work. Ah Kee, Gough and Weatherall all practice in a post-Bennett art world where questioning the restrictions of categorisation and the visual disruption of text are inflected by his cultural legacy. For ‘Artists after Bennett’, they will each reflect on Bennett’s influence on their work and consider the significant role that writing and voice play in their own practices.

About the speakers

Vernon Ah Kee is a member of the Kuku Yalandji, Waanji, Yidinji and Gugu Yimithirr peoples. His multi-faceted practice includes works that range from large-scale drawings of his ancestors to hard-hitting text-based works and installations. Through clever puns and plays on words and objects, Ah Kee fuses the history and language of colonisation with contemporary black/white political issues to expose degrees of underlying racism in Australian society.

Julie Gough is an Aboriginal woman from the Briggs-Johnson-Gower family of northern Lutruwita/Tasmania. She is an artist who interrogates colonial history on Aboriginal Country, and a curator of First Peoples Art and Culture at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

Warraba Weatherall is a Kamilaroi visual artist, Lecturer at Griffith University and DVA candidate, who is currently based in Meanjin (Brisbane). Warraba’s artistic practice has a specific interest in archival repositories and structures, and the life of cultural materials and knowledges within these environments. Warraba is also a lecturer for the Contemporary Australian Indigenous Arts (CAIA) degree at Griffith University’s, Queensland College of Art. Warraba is passionate in shifting cultural norms within the Australian visual arts sector and contributes to the sector through artistic practice, education and curation. Warraba has exhibited works across Australia, most recently; Gertrude Contemporary (Melbourne, 2021), Griffith University Art Museum (Brisbane, 2021), QUT Art Museum (Brisbane, 2021), Institute of Modern Art (Brisbane, 2021), Milani Gallery, Carpark (Brisbane, 2019), Ambush Gallery (Canberra, 2019), NERAM (Armidale, 2018) and MAGNT (Darwin, 2017).

Angela Goddard is a curator, writer, Director of the Griffith University Art Museum, and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the Queensland College of Art. She is also Chair of University Art Museums Australia, and a Board Member of Sheila: A Foundation for Women in Visual Art.

Tim Riley Walsh is a curator and art historian. Tim is currently Curator in Residence, Gertrude, Naarm/Melbourne and has previously worked in gallery management, communications, and programming roles at Milani Gallery, Camden Art Centre, and the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. Tim is the Australia Desk Editor for ArtAsiaPacific, Hong Kong, and a previous contributor to FriezeArt Monthly AustralasiaArt + Australia,ApolloOSMOS, and Artlink.

Belonging to the Yamatji people of the Inggarda language group of northwest Western Australia, Stephen Gilchrist is Lecturer of Indigenous Art at the University of Sydney and Deputy Director of The Power Institute. He is a writer and curator who has held curatorial appointments with the Indigenous collections of the National Gallery of Australia (2003-2005), the British Museum (2008), the National Gallery of Victoria (2005-2010), the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College (2011-2013) and the Harvard Art Museums (2012-2016).

About the book

Gordon Bennett: Selected Writings is the first publication to survey the writing practice of the late Gordon Bennett (1955–2014), giving insight into one of Australia’s most important contemporary artists in his own words. Featuring nearly forty published and unpublished essays, artist’s statements, letters, and interviews from across Bennett’s nearly thirty-year career, Selected Writings profiles the importance of the written word within his art and broader intellectual practice. Through its focus on Bennett’s written voice, which shifts between scholarly debate, political argument, and personal reflection, this publication reveals Bennett considered art and life to be just as entangled as words and images.

Edited by Angela Goddard and Tim Riley Walsh, Selected Writings is co-published by Power Publications, Sydney, and Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane. The book also provides glimpses into Bennett’s personal archive via the reproduction of previously unseen notebooks, correspondence, sketches, preparatory compositions, and more.

Available for purchase here.

Presented by

This event is presented by Power Publications, Sydney, and Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane.

 

This project is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

 

 

 

 

This event is part of the lecture series Linework: Lines, Lineages and Networks in Indigenous Art.

Learn more about this lecture series here.

Image

[detail] Photocopied page from Gordon Bennett’s personal archive with cardboard framing tool, undated.
Courtesy The Estate of Gordon Bennett.