Terra Australis, a solo exhibition of over fifty paintings by local artist John Druce, opens at Gordon Gallery this Thursday evening, 23 April 2015. The exhibition is the culmination of road trips John made travelling around Australia after retiring from The Gordon where he taught Illustration and Design for many years. His colourful paintings capture the extraordinary characters he met in the outback and reflect the rich and varied experiences he had along the way. But while this exhibition celebrates country Australia, it is also a reminder of the white washing of Australia’s history and the shocking injustices experienced by Australia’s indigenous people.
Artist Statement – John Druce
What retirement? The chance to travel this land, our country and to experience the effect it’s had on the formation of those who grew up and worked, not in the cities but in the far regions out-back and distant coastal areas, is a rare treat indeed.
People have always interested me. The character in their faces has always held my attention. Faces of the outback people are so full of character, hence my need to photograph, draw and paint them continually.
Within our vast island canvas lies a myriad of lives and landscapes. We have a sixty thousand year old indigenous population and settlements born of convict labour and stealth – Terra Nullius. It is the layers of history, deception and drama, which were not taught to my generation. We were indoctrinated with an imperial view that has plagued us with a two hundred year “Aussie Amnesia”. I have endeavoured to uncover these misguided teachings though my paintings. It astounds me how our white authors masked the truth of this nation’s history. I feel I have only scratched the surface to unfold the greater truths and the reason for their conscious concealment. This is not meant to be the full story of its unearthing, just my beginning of an unravelling story.
The Great Southern Land
The arrival of the white settlers saw the destruction of the aboriginal way of life. The invaders found it expedient to deny the existence of a prevailing system of law, vibrant culture, language and ceremony, in favour of Terra Nullius – a land belonging to no one. This saw the theft of land and its prized resources, the herding together of broken tribes and the introduction of unyielding regulations forcing the institutionalisation of the local inhabitants. The penal colonies served as an economical workforce that rapidly began to Europeanise the new land. Brutal use of convict labour to service the Emperors expansion was long on rum, sodomy and the lash. As the new settlement expanded, the clearing of the land for agriculture and stock served by convict labour soon brought about the eradication of the indigenous population. Currency lads and lasses, born of former convicts – had the convict stain – a mortal blot soaked into the fabric of the colonies expansion.
A cure for this excruciating colonial double bind was amnesia – a national pact of silence.
Robert Hughes The Fatal Shore
Terra Australis by John Druce
Tuesday 21 April – Thursday 7 May
Opening Thursday 23 April, 5:30 pm
Gordon Gallery, Cnr Gordon Ave and Fenwick St, Geelong.