Visual Arts Review

Bungaree, The First Australian at The Mosman Art Gallery

Open till 22 February 2015.

bungaree1We travelled along to the Mosman Art Gallery around lunch time one sunny day in early January. The gallery was quiet with no other visitors during our 45 minute visit.

The Bungaree exhibition at the gallery contains works by 16 emerging and established artists who have nominally re-interpreted the stories around Bungaree. The image to the right is of Bungaree.  There are numerous historic paintings of Bungaree.






The story of Bungaree has a key place in this country’s early colonial history. His presence amongst the first European settlers is well documented and efforts to maintain awareness of first peoples such as Bungaree are important.

I was puzzled on several levels by this exhibition.

It is always a challenge for any curator to mix art by established artists with those still to achieve an established professional status. In this case, this mixing has not been so successful. The works that have been selected range from the visually striking, several that are of interest, and others from participants who are yet to achieve professional practice.

I got the sense that the messages behind some of the works was the same protest voices that have been curated into such exhibition for the past several decades. It seems that the curatorial intent behind this exhibition has not moved seriously to a more sophisticated way of voicing the complexities of ongoing Indigenous concerns.

The exhibition is being staged in Mosman, located amongst several very upmarket harbourside suburbs of Sydney. I suspect these residents would respond well to a set of visual artists providing more intellectual, engaging and creative interpretations of and reactions to the Bungaree stories.











I suggest there was weakness in the curatorial directions for the exhibition. There is definitely a more engaging exhibition waiting to be put together on the subject of Bungaree. It may have been better to have focussed on a selection of established professional artists with numerous works from each that addressed the Bungaree theme.

The catalogue was well produced and some of the works looked better in the publication than on the walls. Actually the whole exhibition looks better in my pictures here than in real life.  There is basic information online. click here.

And be aware the exhibition is on two floors – this fact I nearly missed. There’s no sign obvious to point this out. So spot the stairs down one end of the first floor and go upstairs for more.

Would I recommend this exhibition to anyone and everyone? The trouble being that Sydney is a complex place to get around at any time on any day. I would not recommend making the journey across town or interstate to see this particular exhibition. However if you were in the area, then by all means get along and see the exhibition for yourself. Of course, you may disagree with my comments on the exhibition.

There was a favourable commentary in The Guardian – click here.

I could not find any reviews online by visual arts critics of this exhibition so I take it that the visual arts critics are on holidays.

However if you want a quick overview of Bungaree, check out this commentary  online Рclick here.

There’s another background piece online from the National Museum of Australia – click here.

There are many paintings and other imagery of Bungaree. I suggest you do a google image search on Bungaree and you will see what I mean.

Recommendation: Exhibition Rating 6/10


Paul Costigan

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