BROOK ANDREW, THE RIGHT TO OFFEND IS SACRED, by Anita Traynor
Brook Andrew………….. is definitely a highly regarded and easily identifiable force within the current contemporary art market. His recent body of work is no less tame than usual and traverses along our paths with the force of an impending tornado. Unabashedly provocative, with its heady social context and broadly interpretative text, it reveals the darker side of a not so humane culture and casts a bleak shadow over our Colonial past forcing us to confront the deeply rooted notions that have been etched into an idealized history.
After more than 25 years in the industry both as artist and teacher, I believe Brook is finally getting the true accolades he deserves as he cements a place in the history of the Australian art market, and credit to him for crossing the ever tenuous boundary that sometimes easily pigeon holes artists into the more historically marked box of ‘ indigenous art’. Tony Elwood, Director of the NGV, describes Brook as “an interdisciplinary artist renowned for questioning the dominant narratives associated with colonialism and modernist histories……………………….with his keen eye for the beautiful and the willfully provocative and his virtuosity as both a social critic and storyteller, Brook reinterprets and interferes with these images to bring them into the present; asking the viewers to restrain their gaze, and shifting conceptions of race and redefining the historical record.”
THE RIGHT TO OFFEND IS SACRED…..currently showing at the NGV, is an expertly curated exhibition by no other than the extremely erudite and astonishingly informed, Judith Ryan, Senior Curator of Indigenous art. Her team have woven a beautifully crafted and poignant web, which reveals a vast and diverse culmination of Brook’s work; a carefully edited display, spanning so many mediums, from photography, video, neon, sculpture, paintings, assemblage and print making. Continuously questioning the inherent racism and oppression of his indigenous past, Brook asks us to confront our own fears and although not deliberately, he encourages an open ended discussion of the notions normally held within an ostensibly ‘Anglo Saxon’ culture.
So much is on display here it’s impossible to go into detail about the complexity of the works, (for this part, I urge you to read Judith Ryan’s concise essay, Aesthetics/Medium/Process which gives a very detailed account of his work thus far), from his exquisite black and white screen print portraits which illustrate a multitude of ethnicities, to the neons that scream loud and clear, to the pop- like humongous poster with cigarette boxes delivering his prophetic words, like hope and peace….. and yes, there is the iconic and widely acclaimed, SEXY AND DANGEROUS, making an appearance, looking as bold and arresting as ever.
I urge you to venture out and visit this extraordinary exhibition for it promises not to disappoint.
Brook also features in ACCA’s current exhibition, Sovereignty, with over 30 artists selected including Reko Rennie, Kent Morris, Jim Berg, Maree Clark, Vicky Couzens, Destiny Deacon, Steven Rhall, Gary Foley…….based on the historical artist William Barat, who was also a notable activist, political leader and translator, this broad cross section illustrates the complexities of our Nation exquisitely curated through a number of mediums including, hip hop, multi-media, painting, sculpture, craft and film.
Images copyright Brook Andrew and Tolarno Galleries and myself expertly taken on iPhone.