Not Niwe, Not Nieuw, Not Neu

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, 27 October - 10 December 2017, Curated by Michael Do.

The failure to recognise the destructive impact of colonisation is a problem specific to Australia. It is also the shared history and present reality of our neighbours. The long and menacing tentacles of colonial forces are felt in New Zealand, Pacific Islands, South East Asia and further afield. Using the taxonomy implemented by botanist Sir Joseph Banks during the arrival of the First Fleet as a framework, Not Niwe, Not Nieuw, Not Neu subversively explores a retelling of the impacts of these classifications on the First Peoples of Australia and New Zealand and the devastating legacy that has played out over the past 229 years.

Curator Michael Do cleverly titles the exhibition using a play-on-words of the etymology of the word ‘new’. The exhibition continues to use language as the common thread to detail how, to the detriment of First Peoples, English was used by colonisers to define—through naming of species and places—the ‘new found’ world of Australia and New Zealand. By way of introduction, the bright neon lights of Newell Harry’s Circles in the Rounds (2008) installation are radiant through the large street front windows of the gallery. Harry plays with the structures of language, for example ‘Level Rotor’ (2008), a palindrome and White Whine (2008), a homophone, to interrogate and undermine the power of English language.

The upstairs gallery has a very museum-like feel—as though you have entered a gallery of 19th century European art—except here, the work is contemporary. Unmistakably, each artist employs the same aesthetic as the type of work they are critiquing. Daniel Boyd is represented by two bodies of work, his well-known Captain Cook painting series and the work that resulted from his residency at the Natural History Museum, London in 2011. Boyd has repurposed decommissioned museum storage boxes that once housed skull bones taken from Polynesia and other human remains. The subtle power of the small painting Up in smoke tour #13a + b (2011), painted on storage box lids, which depicts the HMS Endeavour landing in Botany Bay, is palpable. The work speaks to the ongoing battle of Indigenous Australians to repatriate culturally significant objects and human remains of ancestors taken without consent to be held in museum collections in Australia Britain, Europe and North America.

Do has thoughtfully selected works that use the idea of a specimen or museum ‘exhibit’ as a way of critiquing the colonial framework of taxonomy. Including botanical drawings from Sir Joseph Banks alongside the daguerreotype plates by James Tylor and still lifes by Fiona Pardington is particularly powerful. The placement of these works enables contemplation of our past and how the actions of colonisers continue to impact our region. Tylor’s images of native botanical specimens being sliced, probed, measured and pulled reflects the brutality of Australia’s past. To see the detail in Tylor’s plates, you cannot help but catch your reflection—the viewer becomes part of the composition, accountable in some way. Pardington’s still life photographs speak to the contact Banks had with New Zealand and the impact of colonisation on Maori people. Using classical European compositions, Pardington incorporates traditional Maori objects and imagery to reconstruct the Euro-centric history of New Zealand and tell of the impact of colonisation. Captive Female Huia (2017) depicts the extinct native Huia bird propped up in a pose suggestive of a traditional still life. Here Pardington astutely critiques the erosion of traditional cultural practices through the process of colonisation.

Furthering the focus of Euro-centric influences, the two sculptural works, Beverly Hills Gun Club series (2004) and The Moment of Cubism & Nude Descending a Staircase (2009), by Michael Parekowhai feature the house sparrow and lemon tree, both introduced species. Both these works comment on the devastating impact introduced European species have had on native plants and animals, but also the prevalent influence of European culture in defining a dominant Western art history in New Zealand and Australia.

The multiple public monuments in Australia dedicated to Captain James Cook proclaim that Cook was the main protagonist of colonisation in this part of the world. Reshifting the narrative to focus on the legacy of Banks confirms the complex history of our region that continues today. Not Niwe, Not Nieuw, Not Neu is thoughtful in its inquiry. The artists each offer a different avenue for interrogating the impacts of colonisation, redefining how our past can be portrayed and in turn remembered.

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Left to right: 

Daniel Boyd, King No Beard, 2008, oil on linen. Collection, Clinton Ng.

Daniel Boyd, Sir No Beard, 2009, oil on canvas. Courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and STATION, Melbourne.

Michael Parekowhai, Alex Hamilton (from the series ‘Beverly Hills Gun Club’), 2004, sparrow, two pot paint, aluminium. Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney. (all materials and courtesy as per the former in Parekowhai’s Beverley Hills Gun Club works that follow)

Michael Parekowhai, Dave Douglas (from the series ‘Beverly Hills Gun Club’), 2004.

Michael Parekowhai, J.D. Jones (from the series ‘Beverly Hills Gun Club’), 2004.

Michael Parekowhai, John Taffin (from the series ‘Beverly Hills Gun Club’), 2004.

Michael Parekowhai, The Moment of Cubism & Nude Descending a Staircase 2009, hand-finished bronze, patina. Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

Daniel Boyd, Decomissioned skull boxes, Natural History Museum, London. Courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and STATION, Melbourne.

Document Photography, 2017

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James Tylor, Terra Botanica I (Grevillea banksii), 2015;Terra Botanica I (Pennisetum-alopecuroides), 2015; and Terra Botanica II (Agathis-australis), 2015, becquereldaguerreotype. Courtesy the artist and Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne.

 

Document Photography, 2017

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From left to right: 

Sir Joseph Banks, Florilegium: Plate 63 (edition 100/100), 1980 – 1990, copperplate engraving. Courtesy Angela Tandori Fine Art, Melbourne.

Sir Joseph Banks, Florilegium: Plate 57 (edition 100/100. 1980 – 1990, copperplate engraving.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica I (Eucalyptus gracilis), 2015, becquerel daguerreotype. Courtesy the artist and Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica I (Eucalyptus-leucoxylon), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica I (Eucalyptus-leucoxylon II), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica I (Grevillea banksii), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica I (Pennisetum-alopecuroides), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica II (Agathis-australis), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica II (Banksia ericifolia), 2015,

James Tylor, Terra Botanica II (Ipomoea batatas I, Kūmara), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica II (Metrosideros-excelsa, Pohutukawa), 2015.

Document Photography, 2017

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Left to right:

Daniel Boyd, King No Beard, 2008. Collection, Clinton Ng. 

Daniel Boyd, Sir No Beard, 2009. Courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and STATION, Melbourne.

Document Photography, 2017

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Left to right from foreground:

Daniel Boyd, Decomissioned skull boxes, Natural History Museum, London, 2013.

Sir Joseph Banks, Florilegium: Plate 63 (edition 100/100), 1980 – 1990.

Sir Joseph Banks, Florilegium: Plate 57 (edition 100/100), 1980 – 1990.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica I (Eucalyptus gracilis), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica I (Eucalyptus-leucoxylon), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica I (Eucalyptus-leucoxylon II), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica I (Grevillea banksii), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica I (Pennisetum-alopecuroides), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica II (Agathis-australis), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica II (Banksia ericifolia), 2015,.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica II (Ipomoea batatas I, Kūmara), 2015.

James Tylor, Terra Botanica II (Metrosideros-excelsa, Pohutukawa), 2015.

Fiona Pardington, Still Life with Freud and Puriri, 2012, pigment inks on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag. Courtesy the artist and Starkwhite, Auckland.

Fiona Pardington, Captive Female Huia, 2017, pigment inks on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag. With thanks Te Manawa Museum, New Zealand. Courtesy the artist and Starkwhite, Auckland.

 

 

Document Photography, 2017

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From left to right:

Michael Parekowhai, Alex Hamilton (from the series ‘Beverly Hills Gun Club’), 2004.

Michael Parekowhai, Dave Douglas (from the series ‘Beverly Hills Gun Club’), 2004.

Michael Parekowhai, J.D. Jones (from the series ‘Beverly Hills Gun Club’), 2004.

 Document Photography, 2017

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From left to right:

Newell Harry, Circle/s in the Round: MALAYALAM RACECAR, 2010, neon. Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

Newell Harry, Circle/s in the Round: LEVEL ROTOR, 2010, neon. Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

Newell Harry, Circle/s in the Round: WHITE WHINE, 2010, neon. Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

 

Document Photography, 2017

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Newell Harry, Circle/s in the Round: WHITE WHINE, 2010, neon. Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

Document Photography, 2017

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From left to right:

Michael Parekowhai, Dave Douglas (from the series ‘Beverly Hills Gun Club’), 2004.

Michael Parekowhai, J.D. Jones (from the series ‘Beverly Hills Gun Club’), 2004.

Michael Parekowhai, The Moment of Cubism & Nude Descending a Staircase 2009, hand-finished bronze, patina. Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

Daniel Boyd, Up in smole tour #13a + b, 2011, watercolourand archival glue on photocopy in Natural History Museum, London, skull box. Courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and STATION, Melbourne.

Document Photography, 2017

 

 

Lucy Ainsworth is a curator and writer based in Sydney. Her research focuses on the evolving relationship between art and politics specifically through socially engaged projects. Through her curatorial practice, she is interested in rethinking exhibition formats and collaborating with artists who experiment with ‘audience-centred’ work and extend their practice outside the gallery space. Her forthcoming research/curatorial project centres on artist-led socially engaged projects which alter modes for knowledge production and dissemination. In 2016, she participated in the Independent Curators International Curatorial Intensive in New Orleans and in 2018 will undertake a residency at Residency Unlimited in Brooklyn.

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