Gordon Bennett

Possession Island (Abstraction)

1991

In Tate Modern

Level 3: A Year in Art: Australia 1992

Level 3: A Year in Art: Australia 1992
Artist
Gordon Bennett 1955–2014
Medium
Oil paint and acrylic paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1843 × 1845 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Tate and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, with support from the Qantas Foundation 2015, purchased 2016
Reference
T14898

Display caption

This painting is based on Samuel Calvert’s 19th-century etching Captain Cook Taking Possession of the Australian Continent on Behalf of the British Crown, AD 1770, itself a copy of a lost painting by John Alexander Gilfillan. Bennett painted his version after Australia’s bicentennial celebrations in 1988. For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, this was a time to mourn the devastating consequences of 200 years of colonisation. In Calvert’s etching, an Aboriginal man holds a drinks tray. Here he is concealed under blocks of black, red and yellow, the colours of the Aboriginal flag. These geometric forms also refer to the early 20th-century abstract artist Kazimir Malevich.

Gallery label, July 2021

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