Unfinished Business: The Art of Gordon Bennett

AAR-Gordon-Bennett-Possession-Island-1991-Museum-of-SydneyHonouring the art and legacy of one of Australia’s most influential contemporary artists, Unfinished Business: The Art of Gordon Bennett opens at Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) from 7 November 2020.

(QAGOMA) Director Chris Saines said Unfinished Business: The Art of Gordon Bennett celebrated the Queensland-based artist’s globally recognised contribution to contemporary art and his eloquent and urgent synthesis of ideas.

“We are very pleased to be presenting ‘Unfinished Business’, developed in close consultation with the artist’s estate, to continue the public unfolding of Gordon Bennett’s practice,” said Mr Saines. “The exhibition showcases Bennett’s key series in depth, his most important and admired works, and includes many works which have rarely if ever been exhibited.”

“Gordon Bennett voraciously consumed art history, current affairs, rap music and fiction, and processed it all into an unflinching critique of how identities are constituted and how history shapes individual and shared cultural conditions. We are honoured to be able to recognise his contribution here in Brisbane, the city where he lived and worked, and to acknowledge the reach and enduring impact of his multidisciplinary interests.”

“Audiences will experience almost 200 artworks ranging from installation and sculptural assemblage to painting, drawing, video and ceramics. Drawn from private and public collections, as well as the artist’s estate, this is the first major survey of the artist’s work in over a decade,’ said Mr Saines.

Gordon Bennett was born and raised as a European Australian in the regional town of Monto, central Queensland. While he grew up knowing his father was a migrant of Anglo-Celtic descent, he was a young teenager when he learnt his mother was Indigenous and that she had spent her childhood in the Cherbourg Aboriginal mission before training as a domestic helper.

This revelation of a dual identity was a life-changing event for Bennett, especially in the context of 1960s Australia, a decade in which the country grappled with its history, not least in finally giving its original inhabitants the right to vote and be recognised in the national census.

Bennett commenced full-time study at Brisbane’s Queensland College of Art at the age of 30. From that time on he drew on contemporary postcolonial theory to explore the workings of society, and to reflect on racial violence and social and cultural inequities he observed at home and internationally, and their ramifications for individual and collective identity.

Lead curator of the exhibition, Zara Stanhope, Curatorial Manager of Asian and Pacific Art, QAGOMA, said Unfinished Business celebrated Bennett as an artist of great passion and sensitivity whose prolific body of work continues to encourage audiences to question mainstream historical accounts, established fields of knowledge, and the ways we think about the world including Australia’s colonial past and post-colonial present.

“Highlights of the exhibition include Bennett’s early compositions Diptych 1987; the installations Psycho(d)rama 1990 and Culture bag 1992; the welt and mirror series; and paintings and drawings driven by Bennett’s fascination with and perceived shared experience with the African-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat,” she said.

“Drawing is also a major focus of the exhibition, with more than 100 working and finished compositions that reflect the artist’s unique visual language. Bennett’s late works seek understanding around sovereignty, citizenship and how to ensure multiple perspectives exist together truthfully.”

“Many of the cultural and social divides his works speak to remain unchanged today. Bennett’s ‘unfinished business’ was to encourage a great sensitivity and action in terms of these conditions,” said Ms Stanhope.

Unfinished Business: The Art of Gordon Bennett
Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Stanley Place, South Brisbane
Exhibition: 7 November 2020 – 21 March 2021
Free entry

For more information, visit: www.qagoma.qld.gov.au for details.

Image: Gordon Bennett, Australia 1955-2014, Possession Island, 1991. Oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas Two parts: 162 x 260cm (overall) © The Estate of Gordon Bennett. Purchased with funds from the Foundation for the Historic Houses Trust, Museum of Sydney Appeal, 2007. Collection: Museum of Sydney, Sydney Living Museums