Djon Mundine thinks there should have been more of an Aboriginal presence in the Sydney Biennale. He mentions the theme of the event – “The beauty of distance: songs of survival in a precarious age” – and asks why more indigenous artists haven’t been taking part and why the Northern Territory intervention, for instance, hasn’t provoked a stronger response from artists.

The Aboriginal representation in the biennale has not, in fact, been insignificant. Of the 65 Australian artists included in the event that finishes next month, 47 were indigenous. Still, Mundine would have liked more, since 41 of those were involved in a single project.

At any rate, he has a broader concern. He is worried about a wider malaise in art, where “more people are concerned about aesthetics” than substance.

“Art is a social statement and a political statement in a broader sense, so it has to have some sort of depth, something you respond to,” he says. “A lot of Aboriginal art – a lot of art, period – has been lacking that.”

Mundine, 59, is one of the nation’s most respected curators of indigenous art, and a scholar, teacher, art historian and artist. Now based in Sydney, as curator of contemporary Aboriginal art at the Campbelltown Arts Centre, he spent 16 formative years living and working in the arts in Arnhem Land.