1. You already have one artwork in the National Gallery of Australia Collection, now the NGA has acquired The Lucky Country series too.
I’m elated to have had the highly provocative suite of digital prints titled The Lucky Country acquired for the Collection. This suite of seven digitally enhanced images on archival paper has been supplied as a one-off series of A1 framed pieces. However, I’ve also produced 30 x A3 sets and 30 x concertina postcards which will be available from the gift shop at the NGA throughout the duration of the exhibition.
2. What was the inspiration for The Lucky Country?
The inspiration lies with me every time I see the ‘Australian’ flag. Be it on a flag pole at a school, on the window of a car, en masse at a ‘national’ sporting fixture encompassing some ignorant twit singing Advance Australia Fair at the top of their lungs. Having these images acquired by the ‘National Gallery of Australia’ feels like a quasi-detox for me. I just might shut up for a while now ;-p
3. How did the series evolve creatively?
There are seven ‘expressions of colloquial comfort’. I shan’t elaborate here because visitors to the site may read the statement for the pieces, however… I will touch on one. ‘LOL’, featuring a draw dropping image of an Aboriginal Father and two Jarjums (children). This was scanned from an antique postcard I found on ebay. As was a popular trend at the turn of last century, black & white photographs were hand coloured. In this case, then produced as a postcard. The Aboriginal Father stands before a ‘settler’ who offers what appears to be damper / flour and tea to the Father. The children stand a few paces behind him. This is one of the more tame images in the suite but… at some point, a random photographer has captured this moment of catastrophic cultural upheaval. Whereby the Native, almost overnight, was forced to surrender the healthiest diet on the planet.
4. This work’s being exhibited in the NGA’s 3rd National Indigenous Triennial, Defying Empire, opening this month. You’re in good company.
Being selected among 30 stellar Indigenous artists this time round gives me an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. Mainly because, as I write this, I’m considered a ‘mid-career’ artist. For that I am thankful. So I’ve been remarking that my inclusion in this, the 3rd National Indigenous Triennial is like my ‘graduation’. It actually feels like attaining a PhD in Contemporary Aboriginal Art. I just may change my business card to Dr Blak Douglas. It’s a great way to celebrate 18 years of self-taught practice originating from an industrial unit in the back blocks of South Penrith.
5. And you’ll have a few works on show; in addition to The Lucky Country, you also have a triptych, Domestic Violets and The Really Bins.
I’m excited to have 3 distinct elements being exhibited in this Triennial. This offers a fantastic cross reference of genres which span an evolution in my practice – and succinctly so. Given my origins in art were founded in graphic design, it’s apt to include the aforementioned prints.
Next, there’s a poignant triptych suite of A2 canvases titled Domestic Violets. A homage to my Blak Nanna (Chlorine Morthem), whom I never met. She was stolen and served time as a child slave from the 1930’s – 1940’s. I’ve produced a set of three painstakingly pointillised images dedicated to her. A portrait at centre, painted from the only adult photograph we have (and supplied by the State archives). On either side she is flanked by two generic cleaning products, White King and Vanish – so beautifully literal in their metaphors given that my Aboriginal Grandmother was forced to relinquish Dhungutti cultural ways in place of cleaning domestic environments for white people.
Finally… I’m elated to have included the suite of ten Really Bins. Of my most favoured collaborations to date, this one, with the internationally renowned WILL COLES, is arguably the most notable. Around 2009 I’d tracked this infamous (then) Sydney-based street artist. He’d been responsible for most all those 3-D resin or concrete objects glued to walls and pavements from Newtown to The Rocks, often inscribed with quirky text sayings. Many of us have seen his deceased pigeons, Nokia mobile phones, balaclava faces, baby dolls, phallic / pistols, and even tube televisions and washing machines. So I’d asked him if he’d ever made a wheely bin? Always up for the challenge, the maestro manufactured a mould enabling multiple editions. The historic creation began with one, the ‘Sorry Bin‘, a then finalist in the Parliament of NSW Aboriginal Art Award. Following that, and a request by the organisers of Sculpture by the Sea, Will knocked up nine more and each with the title of a Federal public holiday on the front panel. I am now extraordinarily pleased to announce, that after an eight year maturation period, the suite ‘REALLY BINS’ have now found a permanent home in the Nations main Gallery.
6. Where to from here?
Well, the sky’s as limited as a Michael Riley masterpiece…
Artist: Blak Douglas
Gallery: National Gallery of Australia ,