Exposition Art Blog: Gordon Bennett - Neo-Expressionism

Gordon Bennett - Neo-Expressionism

Gordon Bennett (1955 –2014) was an Australian artist of Aboriginal and Anglo-Celtic descent.
"In the late 1990s Bennett responded to the personal experiences and practice of Puerto-Rican Haitian-American artist Jean-Michael Basquiat by producing a series of paintings that referenced the style and appropriated motifs of Basquiat’s own art. He also wrote an open letter to the dead artist celebrating their cultural and artistic similarities, as well as their shared love of jazz, rap and hip-hop. Bennett conversed about his conceptual painting practice as 'based on the semiotics of ‘style’ and paint application, images and text, historical and contemporary juxta-position'. His intention in the Notes to Basquiat series is to 'highlight the similarities and cross-connections of our shared experience as human beings living in separate worlds that each seek to exclude, objectify and dehumanise the black body and person'.
In the open letter to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bennett continues:
"To some, writing a letter to a person post-humously may seem very tacky and an attempt to gain some kind of attention, even 'steal' your 'crown'. That is not my intention, I have had my own experiences of being crowned in Australia, as an 'Urban Aboriginal' artist – underscored as that title is by racism and 'primitivism' - and I do not wear it well. My intention is in keeping with the integrity of my work in which appropriation and citation, sampling and remixing are an integral part, as are attempts to communicate a basic underlying humanity to the perception of 'blackness' in its philosophical and historical production within western cultural contexts."
Bennett makes art that questions ‘accepted’ versions of history, often taking historical artworks as his starting point. His three paintings titled Possession Island are based on a 19th century etching by Samuel Calvert. The original image shows explorer Captain James Cook raising the Union Jack flag in 1770, claiming ownership of the entire eastern coast of Australia in the name of the British Crown. Bennett updates this image in Possession Island (Abstraction) by concealing the indigenous servant beneath the abstract and conceptual style of Kazimir Malevich. These shapes are coloured red, yellow and black referencing the Aboriginal flag and loss of a culture. Bennett is commenting on the devastating effects of colonialisation on Australia’s indigenous population."

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