Gordon Syron Exhibition: Culture War II
Downing Centre, Local Court Windows
Corner of Elizabeth St and Liverpool St, Sydney
Till Friday 31 July 2015
Gordon Syron is a notorious and well respected Aboriginal Artist, known for his colourful eccentricities, humour and honesty. Syron deals with the struggle to reconcile a messy post-colonial condundrum. His expressive painting style combined with controversial and historical themes, mine the atrocities of colonisation and bring them together with powerful motifs drawn from the Australian landscape.
Syron’s body of work spans four and a half decades. In 1972, after killing a man while defending his family’s land, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. The legal principle of ‘judgement by one’s peers’, a cornerstone of the the jury trial system, becomes farcical when there are no “peers” on the jury. In Syron’s seminal work, Judgement By His Peers,1978, he offers criticism of the incarceration of Indigenous Australians at an astronomical rate; throwing light on the lack of freedoms inherent to a system which from its sinister beginnings, has discriminated against the traditional custodians in a concerted effort to displace them.
Syron began painting in prison, self-taught and determined to look out beyond the bars. He calls his work a mixture of impressionism, modernism, primitivism and surrealism. These influences were inspired by the Masters of Australian and European Art, that hung in the Art Gallery of NSW. During his incarceration Syron visited the gallery on day-leave and gleaned elements from the modern masters; Arthur Boyd, Sid Nolan, Russell Drysdale and the French Impressionists. Roo And Black Sticking, 2010, where Syron appropriates Arthur Boyd’s iconic Wimmera, Central Australian Landscape of the 1950s, juxtaposed against the whimsical “Faux Naive” painting style reminiscent of Sid Nolan. Syron uses the familiarity of this imagery as a backdrop to set a horrific scene; the casual pastime of sticking a ‘black’ as one would a kangaroo, a common activity, legal and encouraged for many years (legally, as late as 1908 in some states). The romance of these majestic beasts, coupled with an Aboriginal mother shielding her child as she flees the merciless pursuit of the rugged Australian cowboy on horseback.
With tongue in cheek, disturbing series’ themes and titles like No Trees And Here Come The Red Coats, Do You Believe In Aboriginal fairies?, The Poisoning Of The Waterholes of Australia, Civilising The Natives: Gender Of God?, 1788 Invasion Day: Coming Through The Heads, Deaths In Custody, Where The Wild Flowers Once Grew, Aboriginal Diggers, and Feather Foot, this selling exhibition Culture War II celebrates a diverse collection and survey of work documenting the dispossession of a now internally displaced People. Like an Oracle Uncle, he calls for the Truth; the kind that lasts when everything else around it dissolves. A kind of reconciliation between seemingly irreconcilable cultures and histories, the likes of which we have not yet seen.
This selling exhibition Culture War II celebrates a diverse collection of work documenting the dispossession of a now internally displaced People. Gordon Syron: the Murderer, the Boxer, the Romantic, the Friend, the Foe, the Activist, the Aboriginal, the Painter, the Teacher, the Poet, and the Man. Here in a house of justice, formerly a department store window box, hang his life’s work. This Heckler’s Gallery installation responds to and subverts our value system, ready to be judged, absorbed, listened to and heard.
“Lest we forget”
Saha Jones and Jordan Reed