Australian Stories: An exhibition of paintings and painted sculpture
13th to 1st April 2012
Global Gallery, Paddington, Sydney
In this series of works Australian Stories Kingsford-Smith has appropriated pictorial representations of Australian history from the archive and recombined them in a manner that challenges the established hierarchies of official history. In contrast to post-colonial artists such as Gordon Bennett who created critical and polemical ‘history’ paintings, Kingsford-Smith evades making didactic statements and instead presents a relatively subjective and playful relationship to the archive and the historical narratives it is entrusted to preserve. Key moments in Australia’s history have been combined with imagery of animals and other motifs, which appear peripheral if not tangential to the central historical narrative. Several elements in the paintings appear to be selected by personal impulse or because of their connection to personal memories. To some this may appear to render the paintings unintelligible – what should the viewer pay attention to? Which elements in the paintings are significant and which are incidental? The apparent arbitrariness within the work becomes more intelligible when we reflect on the model of history presented by the artist’s practice. In his essay The Light of the Sud-Ouest the French theorist Roland Barthes provided evocative descriptions of phenomena, such as weather, asserting the importance of being attentive to what is presented as either insignificant or outside the concerns of the official history of the region. In Kingsford-Smith’s work The Kelly Saga, Ned Kelly is given less hierarchical importance (by way of size and position) than images of less famous and momentous significance within Australia’s history. The artist, like the viewer, encounters history through the filter of their own horizon, which is formed from both shared cultural fields and more subjective and psychological dimensions. While what is conveyed in the series of paintings may not meet expectations of those seeking coherent historical narratives, it does provide a representation of the artist’s encounter with the archive and the processes involved in reconciling oneself with the narrative structure of history.
(Paul James, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
Works in the exhibition include six paintings (acrylic on wood) and ten painted horses (acrylic on papier mache). The six paintings are titled Explorers, The Eureka Incident, The Kelly Saga, Bushrangers, First Ships and Settlers.