July 1, 2011

Beauty, Vanity and Narcissism

An invitation from The Cross Art Projects to view a remarkable exhibition
and celebrate NAIDOC Week

Exhibition: Beauty, Vanity and Narcissism. Three Aboriginal Male
Artist-Photographers: Adam Hill, Garry Lee & Christian Thompson.

Curator: Djon Mundine OAM

Opening: Saturday 2 July 2011at 4pm; Performance by Bjorn Stewart at 5.30pm.

Exhibition Dates: 30 June to 30 July 2011

Venue: The Cross Art Projects
8 Llankelly Place Kings Cross 2011 (off Orwell Street)

About the Exhibition: Beauty, Vanity and Narcissism
In Arnhem Land when beings, creatures, and people exhibit a type of
internal radiated ‘beauty’ at certain times, they are said to be fat,
or full of djukurr. It is a period of strongly evident health and
vitality. Beauty is exhibited by those attributes deemed culturally as
pleasing or impressive or just a socially defined personal appearance.
This varies considerably from society to society, culture to culture and
time to time.

Vanity isn’t necessarily a bad personal trait as in pride in one’s
achievements and knowing your worth. These three artists have much to be
vain about as they are good looking, stylish, intelligent and prescient.
They have accomplished artistic careers by any measurement. But, when
vanity does appear as excessive pride or conceit it is painful to watch
and endure. These three artists have never shown together: Adam Hill and
Christian Thompson are ‘photoshop’ generation while Garry Lee’s
disarming work retains a documentary aura. Yet their work puts
playful/serious questions about stereotypes of Aboriginality.

Christian Thompson’s brazen display is more than a conceited flaunt. In
former times and revelatory occasions Aboriginal adult males covered their
naked bodies with various painted and adorned spaces and designs. These
were in essence a vision of how your soul, your very personal spiritual
essence, in all its power and beauty exists all the time, despite the
changing form of your outer shell. To be an intellectual in Australia is
a terrible burden (maybe a vanity). Freudians may say that everything is
sexual but there is identification with and a joy of meeting the young.
This joy of freshness and renewal is Gary Lee’s obsession, search and
expression. Adam Hill projects his alter ego, possibly unconsciously,
revealing a 1950s ‘Chesty Bond’ Australian male as a kind of striving
sincerity, and yet a send-up of himself and the idea of the ‘male’.

Extracts taken from essay by Djon Mundine OAM, 2011. (Download full essay
from web link below)


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