04 June, 2007

Brook Andrew

Being defined as Aboriginal in contemporary Australia has its blessings. There is infrastructure to support indigenous art. But it raises issues of classification, an almost anthropological way of looking at an artist. Andrew, while acknowledging the pluses, and admiring Pizzi's support of the multitude of forms coming out of indigenous Australia, is uncomfortable with the contemporary cliche of being black.

"Being Aboriginal is my identity," he says. "What I don't like about being labelled as an Aboriginal artist is that it boxes me into the ways in which people think I should create art and especially, always being placed within Aboriginal shows only. Like any stereotype, it has its disadvantages.

"I love who I am and my cultural being, but within the art world, I (and there are others, like Tracey Moffatt) want to be recognised as just an artist who works hard for their own work to be expressed and made without a particular type of mentality which surrounds our work and subjects. Sure, some subjects refer to our Aboriginality, but it doesn't bind us.'

"People say there are advantages of being labelled Aboriginal, but I think this is a racially motivated stereotype."



Brook Andrew has always been uncomfortable about being labelled an 'Aboriginal artist'. His latest work, nevertheless, centres on the politics of Aboriginal Australia within an international context. The pivotal work in Hope & Peace is a collage/screenprint of Indigenous footballer-turned-boxer Anthony Mundine, arms raised, Christ-like. Under each arm, cigarette boxes with the twin messages 'hope' and 'peace' float on towers of block capital letters, with psychedelic patterns of black and white behind. The colours are almost neon in their flat loudness the rainbow of Mundine's arms, the billboard-style lettering and the inclusion of that emblem of commercialism, cigarettes scream a pop-art aesthetic.





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