Helen Johnson

Seat of Power


In Tate Modern

Level 3: A Year in Art: Australia 1992

Level 3: A Year in Art: Australia 1992
Helen Johnson born 1979
Acrylic paint on canvas
Support: 3930 × 3250 mm
Tate and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, with support from the Qantas Foundation 2015, purchased 2018

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Seat of Power uses literal and symbolic images to refer to the continued relationship between Australia and Britain. Johnson presents this as ‘embodied in the fetishistic production of a replica of the Speaker’s Chair at Westminster that was gifted to the Australian parliament in 1926.’ At the centre, Johnson replicates an image of the British House of Commons from Manners and Customs of Ye Englyshe in 1849, a book of satirical sketches by Victorian illustrator Richard Doyle. She uses ‘images that acknowledge the corruption, sycophancy and greed of colonial culture that, to me, were emblematic of the male modes of power that were taken to Australia by the British.’ 

Gallery label, August 2021

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