Historically artists have responded to the landscape in diverse ways, both topographically and – as a contested or political space.
A current display in the gallery features artists whose works explore the spiritual and physical relationships between people and the land.
Works by Rosemary Laing, Brook Andrew, Paddy Bedford, Rosalie Gascoigne and Sally Gabori amongst others highlight physical, emotional, cultural and political ways of seeing and connecting with the land.
A significant new acquisition, Purified by Fire by Christian Thompson (pictured), traverses many of the ideas highlighted above.
Christian Thompson is an Australian-born contemporary artist of Bidjara, English Irish, German and Jewish heritage.
In 2010, Thompson made history when he became the first Aboriginal Australian to be admitted into the University of Oxford in its 900-year history.
Through the lens of his mixed heritage, Thompson’s work explores notions of identity, cultural hybridity and history in relation to landscape.
Purified by Fire relates to the land management practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the use of fire, smoke as a means of purification. Gum leaves are an important spiritual and ceremonial plant for Indigenous peoples in the south.
The act of purification by fire (or smoke) has existed for tens of thousands of years where Indigenous peoples had sustained harmoniously and in symbiosis with the natural world, prior to the extension of the white colonial arm which saw thousands of years of grass and soil change within a few years.
Through the lens of his mixed heritage, Thompson’s work explores notions of identity, cultural hybridity and history in relation to landscape.Jessica Bridgfoot
Thompson appears within the image as a commanding presence, eyes burning with fire, illustrating the enduring and intrinsic relationship many Indigenous peoples maintain with the land.
Furthermore, Thompson’s work is a call to action, these exquisite Indigenous plants are sacred and precious – and need to be sustained, highlighting traditional Indigenous Australian agriculture and the need to decolonise our mainstream agriculture practices.
In Thompson’s words his work ‘creates a space that was a window into the past and historical practices, but one that very much was connected to the lived experience of people today. Operating as a window into a different kind of future.’
The Bendigo Art Gallery opens daily including public holidays, 10am - 5pm. Tours of the permanent collection daily at 11am and 2pm.
Visit http://www.bendigoartgallery.com.au/Home for latest events and exhibitions.