The Herald looks at the works of Lucas Grogan, who interprets Indigenous bark paintings. The works have recently caused some controversy:

Lucas Grogan’s pictures look indigenous but he is not Aboriginal.

The situation is causing a big fuss in the art world, leading a curator to quit an exhibition in which the young Newcastle artist’s works were on display and to his drawings being barred from next month’s Sydney Art Fair.

Grogan’s drawings on irregular, bark-shaped boards depict stylised figures that instantly evoke a sense of Aboriginality.

But their highly detailed craftsmanship is deceptive.

With figures that may be smoking cigarettes, cavorting among discarded bottles or engaged in confronting sexual acts, the pictures are very modern and very confronting.

Summing up the response of many critics, visiting Canadian professor David Gameau wrote in Art Monthly Australia that he had considered buying one of Grogan’s drawings until he discovered the artist was a white man.

“I was intrigued, because they were pushing the tradition to include some remarkably salient content, alcohol and sex,” Professor Gameau wrote.

“I was interested and so asked more about the artist.

“I was thinking about buying a piece. It echoes similar strategies that are happening and that I want to encourage in our contemporary, Canadian aboriginal art community.

“Anyway, my jaw dropped to the floor when I was told that the artist, Lucas Grogan, is not Aboriginal but a white guy appropriating the Arnhem Land rarrk style.”

Grogan was one of 15 finalists chosen from about 300 entrants across Australia in the Off the Wall emerging artists’ exhibition to have their work displayed at next month’s Sydney art fair.

Objections by unnamed people led to his selection being overturned.

Grogan said he had been elated to be chosen as a finalist but felt crushed when about a week later he was told in a phone call his work had been excluded.

The Newcastle Region Art Gallery assistant is frustrated by what he calls “an unsaid rule or taboo” against non-Aboriginal artists using traditional indigenous design.

The work is on display at the John Miller Galleries, Newcastle City Council.