The Gallery of Modern Art has just opened its doors to its new exhibition entitled "Unfinished Business: The Art of Gordon Bennett". The exhibition is displayed on the third floor of the Gallery and will be on until the 21st of March 2021.
Gordon Bennett is an Australian artist who sadly died quite young. He is one of Australia's strongest contemporary artists and the exhibition, which is a big collection of his work, is challenging and thought-provoking. It is a must-see for anyone who is interested in how art can come to reinvent the narrative of history and how it is told and taught, especially in relation to colonial times both in the Western world and also in Australian colonial history and post-colonial times.
Gordon Bennet was born in Monto in Queensland in 1955 and died in 2014. His Dad wanted him to become a tradie, so he left school at 15 with a view to training in Tafe. However he wasn't happy doing that and after a decade or so in telecommunications, he was restless and keen to find some other direction for his life.
According to his wife Leanne, he told the careers advisor that he was good in Art and English, so he married these two strengths and went about creating his art portfolio, which was necessary to allow him to study at Queensland Art College. He started at the very beginning in finding out about his heritage and its history.
Born of a white man and an Aboriginal woman, his Aboriginal roots were dissociated from him as he was growing up, so when he read Blood on the Wattle, it was hugely significant for him and he began to retell indigenous history for what it was rather than for what was written. While being a form of therapy for him, it also tore him apart as it was so visceral. He realised that he could use his art to affect the way people thought about it. His wife mentioned that as he completed works he often suffered, it was like he was being whipped. He was intensely private as a person and did not enjoy publicity but he was also prolific in his artwork as the exhibition demonstrates. He was influenced by many other artists - Van Gogh, Jimmie Durham, Mondrian, Jackson Pollack and Paul Klee and Michel Basquiat to name but a few.
He used dot art as a way of connecting cultures and referred to historical events and happenings in indigenous history with a focus on what actually happened as opposed to the colonial depiction of it. A lot of his art is focused on that history yet he did not want to be defined as an Aboriginal artist but as a contemporary Australian artist. He didn't want to limit the scope of his art in any way by pigeonholing it. He wanted its interpretation to be as wide as possible for the people who came to see it and appreciate it.
There came a point in his life where it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to express the injustices and the wrongs that had been perpetrated on indigenous people, so he went into art in an abstract form in a series of paintings which became known as 'Stripes'.
Paintings in the Stripes series
He used his art not only to connect Aboriginal history to many other moments in western history and culture but also wanted to deliver strong messages about politics and movements over the ages, something that for him represented the unfinished business that he had so nobly but humbly taken upon himself to share with the world.