Back in June this year I became aware of an artist who was making seemingly Aboriginal art works, but on closer inspection realised they were ugly, banal false representations proporting to be something they are not & blatantly ripping off the designs of Aboriginal peoples, the details of which I will not go into because I can’t and will not speak of behalf of other peoples. I will say that I found and find Grogan’s work offensive, but not in an exciting provocative way, but in the kind of way that makes yours stomach churn at the deliberate attention seeking obnoxiousness of it. Anyway, thought I would share some correspondence I entered into with Marita Smith, of Gallerysmith here in Melbourne who represent Grogan and have included it here for your reading pleasure.
From: Paola Balla [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, 12 June 2012 2:45 PM
Subject: Lucas Grogan
I am writing to you to express my outrage and disgust that you are representing the artist Lucas Grogan and showing his work in August.
I am a Victorian Aboriginal woman, of the Wemba Wemba & Gunditjmara Peoples, a visual artist, curator and lecturer and want to let you and Lucas know that his work is offensive and racist and denigrates the imagery, culture, history and art of Aboriginal Peoples of Australia and I believes infringes upon moral, intellectual and cultural copyright in his misappropriation of Aboriginal art and design.
Grogan’s work is deliberately provocative, misleading, misogynistic, hateful and depicts ugly distortions of Aboriginal manhood, family and kinship and only adds to the inequity, racism, injustice and discrimination that Aboriginal Peoples of Australia experience on a daily basis in this country.
I believe that as non Indigenous artists in this country, Grogan and yourself as a gallery director have a moral and cultural responsibility to demonstrate leadership within the arts industry to which Aboriginal artists contribute millions of dollars to the Australian economy and arts industry of which you both benefit.
As non Indigenous arts industry members you both benefit from living off Aboriginal land, whose Traditional Owners have never conceded sovereignty to you as individuals or to the nation of Australia which I assume you both belong and benefit from, nor to the land your gallery sits on or the land on which Grogan or you both live and enjoy.
So, whether you believe you can legally justify the inclusion of the work of Grogan or not, consider your moral and citizenship rights and responsibilities to the First Peoples of this country to whom it appears you and Grogan discount, reject, oppress and further objectify through his anthropological, banal and ugly visual representations of Aboriginal Australians.
How can you justify the inclusion of him as an artist and his work in your gallery and program?
Please know that I am not the only person who feels this way about Grogan’s work.
Her sweet reply:
Subject: RE: Lucas Grogan
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 13:33:09 +1000
Your email about Lucas Grogan includes assumptions about his new work which are incorrect. None of the works in Lucas’ upcoming exhibition are derivations of images of Aboriginal people. The images which have inspired him are universally recognised symbols of fertility and matriarchy, many of which are from Egyptian and Byzantine civilisations.
If you find these images offensive, I would suggest you refrain from looking at Lucas’ or my website.
170-174 Abbotsford St
North Melbourne Vic 3051
03 9329 1860, 0425 809 328
My bemused response:
PS. Suffise to say, Marita and I have called an end to our pen pal status and have decided to take some time out from our relationship. I am so proud to see the artists Melbourne based, Indian born Texta Queen and Brisbane based Indigenous artist Ryan Presley have quit Gallerysmith and Jan Manton Art respectively in protest at The Bogan’s bogus work. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/indigenous/painter-quits-in-row-over-artist/story-fn9hm1pm-1226524510727