Australia 1955 – 2014
Panorama (with floating point of identification)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Despite first appearances, Panorama is not an abstract painting: the skeins of black paint reveal the silhouette of a reedy bank, set against the bright light of the sun on a quiet waterhole. In the Aboriginal cultures of northern Australia, clan waterholes are the container of souls yet to be born, and the destination of souls departing this world. By placing the Aboriginal symbol, the dot-and-circle roundel (or ‘point of identification’), at the centre of this pond, Gordon Bennett suggests awareness of a heritage that is indirectly his (he is of Aboriginal and English descent).
Trained at the Queensland College of Art in the later 1980s, Bennett has always been alert to the artifice of visual codes in representing experience. This image reads now as a western perspective view, now as a planimetric tissue of dots, brushing against the Aboriginal graphic system. The whiplash lines of glossy red, yellow and black paint were executed in the ‘drip-painting’ style of Jackson Pollock, for whose work (executed on the floor in a ritualistic trance, like some Indigenous painting) Bennett has an ironic affinity.
Bennett’s panorama encompasses points of history, such as the long-denied facts of white violence against Indigenous Australians addressed by much of his early work. Here, rings of red blood seep from the black body of paint into the stillness of the waterhole. As the artist writes of this work: ‘The points of identification are the sites of memories that flow through the conscious mind, informing and constructing our identity, our sense of self (a remembering of our experience, our history, etc).’1
Roger Benjamin 2002
1Gordon Bennett, artist’s statement given to the National Gallery of Australia, 1994.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002