Digital Print

John Batman and his Party Encounter the Budgeroo of Bundoora

Public Description: 

Hybrid mythical creatures and giant Australian animals are common encounters in the artwork of Sharon West. Set in a traditional landscape, West presents a unique way of exploring the relationships between the white settler, Aboriginal cultures and the Australian landscape. The artist navigates within Australia’s colonial narratives to highlight the cultural conditions of settlement, and the accompanying dispossession of Aboriginal people from their land.

West’s artwork is grounded in satire and, at the same time, references Australian landscape movement paintings, reflecting colonial perspectives of history and myth, while imbued with the artist’s imagination and personal narratives. Offering re-imagined glimpses of Victorian history with people of the Kulin Nation, West creates statements about colonisation as an evolving historical and cultural process.

In appropriating history, West visualises and accentuates European mythologies; the notion of an uncivilised and empty land was the basis of colonial occupation and the formation of Aboriginal missions. In John Batman and his Party Encounter the Budgeroo of Bundoora, West conveys the idea of a dangerous and inhospitable land with an oversized monster, in this instance, a now extinct giant ‘Budgeroo’ dominating the landscape as encountered by John Batman and his party during their surveying of Port Phillip. The artwork was created first as a diorama revealing an artificial scene populated by plastic figures, a handcrafted ‘Budgeroo’ and painted background. The diorama was then photographed through glass, flattening the texture to further distort the legitimacy of colonial settlement.

West has developed a comprehensive and impressive body of work examining the relationship between settler and Indigenous cultures within the context of Australian colonial art history. She practices principally with the mediums of painting, assemblage and digital media. West has exhibited widely in Australia and has curated a number of exhibitions working primarily with Victorian Indigenous artists. She is the recipient of various awards including the Excellence in Conceptual Photography Award Kodak Salon (CCP, 2011) Bendigo Bank Emerging Award for the ANL Maritime Art Awards (Mission to Seafarers, 2011), and winner of the Darebin Art Show (2011). Her artwork is held in public collections including the State Library of Victoria, City of Melbourne and the Museum of the British Empire (UK) as well as many private collections.

John Batman and his Party Encounter the Budgeroo of Bundoora © Sharon West

Rabbit Progress

Public Description: 

In Rabbit Progress, Peter Waples-Crowe presents the ever multiplying rabbit as a symbol of European colonisation, and highlights the absurdity of the unintended consequences of the introduction of these extremely prolific creatures that was catastrophic for the natural environment. Recognised as a critical agricultural threat, a rabbit proof fence was constructed at the turn of the 20th century to keep Western Australian pastoral areas free of the devastation caused by crop damage and soil erosion. Later drastic biological measures, including the use of myxomatosis in the 1950s and Rabbit Haemorrhage Disease (RHD) in the 1990s, were used in a semi-successful attempt to control burgeoning rabbit numbers. The long lasting effects of the original folly are the constant dangers posed by the wild rabbit population to Australia’s ecology. In contrast, the didgeridoo player featured in the artwork represents traditional Aboriginal culture in harmony with the land.

Peter Waples-Crowe is a descendent of the Wiradjuri and Ngarigo nations. He is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice examines identity, race and culture. His primary interests are the exploration of Indigeneity, dislocation, globalisation, popular culture and subculture. Using various techniques such as cut and paste appropriations and mixed media applications, his work is influenced variously by politics, sexuality, adoption, traditional Indigenous cultures, street art and humour.. Waples-Crowe has twice won the Victorian Indigenous Art award for works on paper (2013 & 2014).

Rabbit Progress © Peter Waples-Crowe