Revelation, or declaration, is a common theme in many Indigenous people’s works. Often angered by the misrepresentation of their identity, and of Indigenous Australians as a whole, artists engaged with their audience to expel racial and cultural stereotypes. Sometimes these statements are overt and blatant, and at other times they are quiet and subtle.
Tony Albert’s work confronts and descends on the viewer in a powerful and overwhelming manner. It draws both its title and concept directly from American artist Bruce Nauman’s 1973 lithograph Pay Attention. By appropriating, reconstructing and re-presenting Nauman’s words and intent, Albert, as author, forces the viewer to consider their own role in stereotyping Indigenous people.
Nyapanyapa Yunupingu’s paintings on bark speak of a quiet revolution in north-east Arnhem Land. With these particular works, she departs from the tradition of depicting the complex Dreaming narratives of the region and focuses on vividly portraying the significant events that occur in her own life.
Christian Thompson’s video work is mesmerising in its visual repertoire. Three young Aboriginal women gaze at the viewer in a discourse of beauty and mystery. No words are exchanged, but the dialogue is charged with testimony: ‘we are here, we are strong, we have survived’.
The confidence to speak with authority and grace is now the hallmark of Indigenous Australian art.