The Ethics of Cultural borrowing
An interesting article appeared in the Australian, tabling some of the hot water artists have found themselves in over the appropriation or re-representation of indigenous iconography.
image courtesy of ‘The Australian’
“Imants Tillers expected no controversy when he showed his painting The Nine Shots at the Sydney Biennale in 1986.
The artist had built his entire practice on breathing new life into motifs or compositions by other artists without any trouble. So when some complained that his painting had appropriated imagery from Aboriginal artist Michael Jagamara Nelson’s painting Five Dreamings’, he was surprised to realise he had committed a kind of artistic blasphemy
“I didn’t think I had done anything wrong but other people did,” he says. “Referencing indigenous art was only a minor part of my practice at the time.”
Tillers came under fire for not seeking permission from Nelson to use the imagery. Aboriginal artist Gordon Bennett hit back on behalf of Nelson in 1990, creating a work called The Nine Ricochets that re appropriated Tiller’s imagery. Then, in 2001, an unlikely friendship emerged when Tillers and Nelson started painting together at the suggestion of Brisbane gallery director Michael Eather. “I feel grateful for having had the personal contact,” Tillers says now. “There is still a huge cultural gulf between a Warlpiri artist and a Western artist, but painting is a way of connecting.” @ The Australian