Australian for Art
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The stereotypes attached to the indigenous Australian culture in both Australia and internationally are plenty. In Australia, for instance, "Aboriginal is often equated to dark-skinned, uneducated people who, when they do art, only paint dots," says Reko Rennie, an indigenous Australian artist. In an attempt to break these stereotypes and introduce the world to art being created by contemporary indigenous artists active in Australia's urban art scene, the works of 11 such artists, including Rennie, are currently on display at Cymroza Art Gallery, Breach Candy.
The works of each of these artists on display at the exhibition, titled 'Message Stick – Indigenous Identity in Urban Australia', vary tremendously in content and ideas. The work of Darren Siwes, for instance, uses photography to explore class issues and identity politics. Of Dutch and indigenous heritage, his series, Puella, features photographs of gold, silver and bronze coins. The basis for this lies in Plato's book The Republic, which used these coins to show a division between social classes.
Rennie, a self-taught artist, began with graffiti art. "I was introduced to the New York graffiti scene through books and other things, and living in Melbourne at the time, I began to do street art myself," he says. His art now references his identity as an aboriginal man living in urban Australia. The four paintings on display show a spray can and a shield, the latter being a traditional aboriginal one. "The diamond geometric iconography used in my work represents my associations to the Kamilaroi people. There are four male symbols and as many female symbols that designate four language groups within the Kamilaroi people," he says.
A third, Adam Hill, comments on the various, mostly inaccurate, perceptions of the Australian aboriginal community, doing so with a sharp sense of humour. His work, titled The Bigger Picture, features a crow on the mantle in a desert. "The crow is renowned, in many aboriginal communities in north-west New South Wales, for awaiting the spirit of the newly deceased," says Hill. "So in the instance of my image, the crow is removing the spirit and cultural values of what is perceived as aboriginal art."