Arthur Phillip puts his head down, Barangaroo 1788
July 2 - August 1, 2020
1/222 Liverpool Street Darlinghurst
Images courtesy the artist and Chauffer Gallery
Standing outside the Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum chatting with Elder Brad Steadman through the fence Allan is given some valuable advice: ‘start turning straight lines into circles’.
Allan Rand’s new solo exhibition ‘Arthur Phillip puts his head down, Barangaroo 1788’ (which occurred before his trip to Brewarrina) creates a space for the capitulation of preconception. The gentle presentation of the works unframed on white walls calls attention to the materiality of the paintings and invites us to take a yielding approach to our own perception. There is no hurry to meet the paintings, positioned as they are towards the edges of the space, in fact the works prompt a slow meditative response.
This approach is denoted in the title work which presents us with an ambiguous figure. This figure, presumably Phillip, is on his knees, head down in a position of calm deference to an embracing landscape. The calmness of this painting is subtle camouflage for what is a re-imagining of Australia’s history. Positioning the leader of the colonial invasion in such a position of radical humbleness raises questions. Is Phillip unwell? Is he throwing up? Has he somehow, in a temporal contortion, seen a vision of the Crown Casino erected at Barangaroo and been sickened? Or - more hopeful - has he suddenly realised the sacredness of Country? Has he suddenly recognised the deep wisdom and knowledge of Aboriginal peoples - the Eora people, the Dharug people, the Gamaraigal people? Is this self-sacrifice?
Is his head on the chopping block?
This decapitation opens a wound; it releases blood; paint bleeds through the paper.
Paper and watercolour make up a significant portion of the works in the exhibition and a second room reveals a collection of watercolour landscapes. Of these watercolours Rand has said he approached the material and the subject with a ‘beginner’s mind’. Unable to leave his studio and explore Australia Rand has allowed the material to reveal landscapes untethered from the linear. The exhibition stands as a liminal space for a fresh approach in which ways of seeing and experiencing both within and without, before and after, together, are encouraged.
Benjamin Andrasko Johnson