Wiradjuri people

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia born 1970

Revolution 1999 Place made: Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, ink; paper screenprint, printed in colour inks, from multiple stencils Support: 100% Italian rag paper
Edition State: published state
Impression: undesignated impression
Edition: edition of 4

Primary Insc: Signed and dated lower right below printed image in black pencil, 'BROOK ANDREW / DARWIN / 16th APRIL 1999'
Dimensions: printed image 77.0 h x 300.0 w cm sheet 107.0 h x 330.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Gordon Darling Australasian Print Fund, 2001
Accession No: NGA 2001.55
Image rights: © Brook Andrew
  • Purchased by the National gallery of Australia, from the artist, 2001.
  • The observation by Brook Andrew, ‘ … “Oh you’re a political artist”. No I’m not. I’m just an artist reflecting my society; that’s what we do’,[1] can seem incongruent when one encounters Revolution 1999. The colours of the Aboriginal flag, a repeated profile image of an Aboriginal man and the word ‘revolution’, underlined for emphasis, create a very up-front message that immediately suggests the political. But to describe Brook Andrew or Revolution as being ‘any one thing’ is to overlook the complexity and scope of both the artist and his work.

    In Revolution, Andrew combines his interest in historical portraits, the power of representation and language, and the use of posters as a form of activism. Andrew’s intention is to re-present, re-circulate, re-join and re-member those ancestors who have come before him and, more broadly, us. There is an element of subversion in the work,[2] but this is largely aimed at the past, not the present—why can’t we create small victories for our ancestors? Yet, more poignantly, Revolution wades into the arena of cultural health and the wellbeing of Indigenous people today. For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, connecting to our ancestors via historical images and keepsakes can deepen our individual and collective sense of identity; it can improve our health by reducing dis-ease.

    Andrew’s art spans a range of media and materials—photography, video, projection, installation, prints, neon and public art—and often incorporates portraiture and Wiradjuri words and motifs to examine a range of themes including beauty, identity and consumer culture. By design, messages in Andrew’s work are rarely obvious.[3]

    Carly Lane

    [1] H Perkins, ‘Brook Andrew’, in Half light: portraits from black Australia, H Perkins and J Jones (eds), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2008, p 35.

    [2] ibid.

    [3] C Chapman, ‘Brook Andrew’, in L Michael (ed), 21st century modern: 2006 Adelaide biennial of Australian art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2006, p 16.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010

  • Revolution is a work created in my early stages of investigating anthropological photography as a means to recirculate historical images of long forgotten, erased or amnesiac times. The man in the screenprint is sourced from AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies), Canberra. Very few Aboriginal artists choose to investigate anthropological material due to the sensitive nature of how and why the photos were taken. I believe, like many, that this recirculation is healthy for our cultural self-belief and in order to remember our ancestors. Aboriginal artists’ contemporary use and/or reference to this material is a way to grapple with, and participate in, a discourse which is silenced even within our own communities.

    This image as a poster form imitates popular cultural ‘activism’. Still today, some of my work is relegated to ‘political art’. In fact, many Aboriginal artists’ work is relegated as such. Unfortunately for contemporary Australian identity, there is still some way to go in regard to acknowledging different views on life and cultural strategies other than that of the dominant lifestyle. Evidence of this type of invisible or almost amnesiac response is seen within the current Australian media and Australian government policies, and is a refusal to help heal some of the present pain within the lives of those people affected by the Aboriginal Protection Board, an Australian policy.

    How is ‘freedom’ judged within Australian popular culture today? Why the fear of discussion and action? Does hard cash lay it all on the line? For one lifestyle to thrive, must the other be destroyed? Revolution is an artwork which reminds me of our Zeitgeist.

    Brook Andrew, 2002

    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