SLM acquires two important contemporary Indigenous artworks


Sydney Living Museums is honoured to announce the acquisition of two important Indigenous artworks: Invasion III by Gordon Syron – completing the triptych – and Truism Australia, 2020 by Blak Douglas. These purchases add to SLM’s growing collection of significant works by contemporary Indigenous artists and will be on display for the first time together at the Museum of Sydney from 2 July.

Known as the father of contemporary urban Aboriginal art, Gordon Syron is a Biripi/Worimi man from the Mid North Coast of NSW. His works are politically motivated and come from a place of self-determination, cultural pride and legacy. Gordon has been painting since the early 1970s, and during that time he has created more than 150 paintings depicting the invasion and colonisation of Australia.

Invasion III completes the powerful story begun in the works Invasion I, 1999 and Invasion II, 1999 which channel Syron’s anger at the concept of ‘Terra Nullius’ [land belonging to no one] proven false by his depictions of Aboriginal people and Mimi spirits watching from the shore as the invaders arrive.

“I want to challenge the ‘terra nullius’, not through violence,…but I am challenging this statement with my paintbrush,” said Gordon Syron.

Visual and performing artist, Blak Douglas was born in Blacktown, Western Sydney to a Dhungatti Aboriginal father and an Irish-Australian mother. Trained in illustration and photography, Douglas describes himself as being “self-practiced in painting with a style influenced by the study of graphic design and devoutly politicised per social justice”. His works hang in private collections and galleries including the Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies, National Gallery of Australia, National Museum of Australia, NSW Parliament House, QAGOMA and many more.

Blak Douglas was one of several early career and established artists invited to create new work for the A Thousand Words exhibition at the Museum of Sydney. The exhibition features a selection of the most compelling photographic images from the rich collections of Sydney Living Museums and the NSW State Archives created between the 1880s and the 1980s. Douglas responded to one of the most powerful images in the exhibition.

“The power of the image I chose is that it is a snapshot of the stolen generation,” said Blak Douglas. “My work revisits the white Australian policy and what was effectively our version of the holocaust.”

Truism Australia can be viewed within the A Thousand Words exhibition along with the other commissioned contemporary works.

The Invasion I, II, III works will be on display in the Yura Nura: People & Country gallery that is dedicated to presenting contemporary Aboriginal reflections on the history of Sydney and colonisation. The relationship between the British and Aboriginal peoples largely began around Warrane (Sydney Cove) on the site where the first Government House was built and the Museum of Sydney now stands.

“Considering the Museum of Sydney’s history, we feel very strongly about putting Aboriginal voices and perspectives at the forefront of the visitor experience,” said Adam Lindsay, Executive Director, Sydney Living Museums and the NSW State Archives. “This is a form of social justice and redress at such an important site for both Colonial and First Nations history.”

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