Art lovers came together in the Bundaberg CBD for a Milbi Festival arts immersion which included the chance to hear contemporary Indigenous artist Gordon Hookey deliver an artist talk.
The Gathering, held from Saturday 28 October to Sunday 29 October, saw arts spill from the gallery and out into the CBD with the crowd enjoying music, activities and guided artist discussions in Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery.
Gordon’s artist talk was delivered on the exhibition Wajgan's Return as he reflected on Ron Hurley’s legacy and the role of Indigenous art in modern society.
Wajgan's Return celebrates the work of Indigenous artist Ron Hurley, who was the first Aboriginal person to graduate from the Queensland College of Art, and who’s work addressed the experience of First Nations people in urban society.
Gordon was the first speaker invited to deliver the Queensland College of Art’s Ron Hurley Memorial Lecture earlier this year, and he said it was an honour to be chosen to do so by Ron’s family.
He said Ron’s work, in particular a series he did on Indigenous sportsman Eddie Gilbert and legendary cricketer Don Bradman, had resonated him.
“Ron, he inspired me through the work that he'd done about, Gilbert bowled Bradman,” Gordon said.
“I was an avid cricketer growing up and I followed cricket, watch cricket and stuff like that, so I was able to key into the subtlety of what he had done in that series.
“And that became like a landmark or, major, major work, and you know, it inspired a hell of a lot.
“It caused people to look at Aboriginal sportsmen and the history and in particular what had happened between Bradman and Eddie Gilbert.
“That work just gave so much mileage to the discourse.”
Hookey’s work comments on world around him
It is modern life and making comment about the world around him that also informs Gordon’s work, which over his long career has included painting, sculpture, installation, drawing, and new media.
“I paint, I sculpt, I print, I work with technicians, I'll do everything, depends on what the concepts and idea that unfolds,” he said.
“There's a lot of issues and concerns that have to be addressed that I address, or I make pictures about, things like land rights, domestic violence, incarceration rates, health, education standards, just injustices that I comment on in the pictures.
“I just don't want to rest on my laurels without making some sort of commentary.”
Gordon said he felt it was important that Indigenous art was not kept in a time capsule but continued to address things that are happening now.
“Most aboriginal artists, well most Aboriginal people actually, are primary source material when it comes for learning and educating and knowing, because we're living this life with the circumstances that never been before.
“So how we view it, how we think about it, how we represented be it writing, be it music, be it a painting or photography or whatever that is authentic.”
Gordon recalled a story of children who wandered away from the Woorabinda community while he was working in the area, a story that years later was told in dance by the Woorabinda dancers, which Gordon said was an example of how culture and storytelling remained alive and relevant.
“In my lifetime that become part of the story, part of the dreaming and the story how it unfolded,” he said.
“These things that are that are happening today, our art, our creativity is bearing witness to that.
“They could be just little subdued things, but that's part of the greater story, the greater picture.
“They're part of the greater story of Australia as well.”
Gordon is a member of Brisbane based arts collective proppaNOW, who earlier this year travelled to America as winners of the prestigious Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice.