“When the artist is alive in any person... he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature. He becomes interesting to other people. He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and he opens ways for better understanding and seeing.” Robert Henri, an American painter and teacher, expresses this statement in his book, ‘The Art Spirit’ (1939). He provides us with a subjective context that requires thoughtful reflection. In his statement, the person does not have to be a painter or sculptor to be an artist; they look beyond this simplicity and embrace the creature inside by becoming inventive, searching, daring and self-expressing in the way they use media. Viewers are lured towards their works and their attention is captured. Gordon Bennett, an Australian Aboriginal artist, demonstrates this theory through his work. Possession Island (Appendix 1), 1991 and Notes to Basquiat (Jackson Pollock and his Other) (Appendix 2), 2001, will be discussed in relation to Henri’s statement.
Bennett was born in Monto, Queensland in 1955 of Anglo-Celtic and Aboriginal ancestry (Taylor, 2009). His paintings incorporate narrative through the use of graphic detail. Bennett possesses international critical acclaim achieved through the intricate behaviour in which his work connects with historical and contemporary questions of cultural and personal identity. This engagement comprises of a specific focus on Australia’s colonial past and its postcolonial present (National Gallery of Victoria, n.d.).
Possession Island displays a photocopy of Samuel Calvert’s engraving, Captain Cook taking possession of the Australian continent on behalf of the British Crown AD 1770, as a layer in the background. The original image was cropped and reproduced in bold and black line work (National Gallery of Victoria, n.d.). On top of this image, Bennett slashes lines and dots of red, yellow and black paint across the surface of the canvas, which mirrors the colours of the Aboriginal flag. Other