Issue 45 of Artist Profile has reminded me of the value of independence, of the magazine and of its writers. The diversity of approaches and ideas, not only of the artists interviewed and reviewed, but of our contributors, makes me acutely aware that it is difference that binds us. Each article, independent and unpredictable, reflects the importance of original authorship.
The work of the editor is to establish a framework of commissioned stories, then delight in unexpected results. In this issue the value of cultural independence can be seen; articles about the effects of oppression reminds me that independence of mind is crucial to produce imaginative work.
The question of originality is considered from a different angle by John McDonald in his essay, ‘Indigenous Art: Where are we going?’. Questioning Damien Hirst’s appropriative engagement with Aboriginal art, in particular that of the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye, McDonald points out that Hirst wrote about the period of Aboriginal art in which Emily was a star, and that it is not surprising to suppose her work influenced Hirst’s recent series ‘The Veil Paintings’.
This debate tells of the power differential that exists even between successful artists: the legal question of copyright is not the concern here, but a courtesy, of the acknowledgement of influence. McDonald points out that Australian art is not influential in the global art market, and such acknowledgement, even if deserved, may not be forthcoming. But this also reminds us that the denial of market value has never stopped a creative individual, and that this provides an independence of its own.
The enduring independence of Watters Gallery, one of the leading and most respected galleries in Australia, will end with its closure during the period of this issue. It’s important to celebrate Geoffrey Legge and Frank Watters for the commitment and generosity which profoundly changed the visual arts scene they entered in 1964. Over more than fifty years, with Alex Legge, they have given us many memorable exhibitions and events, supported artists beyond their own gallery and have shown generations of artists and arts administrators the value of independence. As a small acknowledgement of their formidable legacy we invited Reg Mombassa to reflect on what it meant to him to be a Watters’ artist.
What stands out with Joe Furlonger, this issue’s cover artist, is his hesitation about painting his local landscape. It’s mysterious, to say the least. Furlonger reveals to Louise Martin-Chew that he has lived in the same area for more than seventeen years and still isn’t ready to paint his surroundings, or as he puts it, to ‘take the skeletons out of the closet’. What that actually means, I guess, will have to wait and see when he has his next exhibition at Defiance Gallery in Sydney.
– Kon Gouriotis