Speech Notes fromPeter Louca
Executive Director Arts South Australia
Launch of Daubism - Driller Jet Exhibition
Friday 4 August 2017 6:00PM Hahndorf Academy
Good evening and thank you for inviting me to be a part of this significant SALA exhibition.
My name is Peter Louca (or in the language of my forebears I am Procopis).
It is a privilege to join you as Executive Director of Arts South Australia, the state government agency tasked with the stewardship of the Arts, Cultural Heritage and creative sectors.
I acknowledge the traditional first nation owners of the land we meet on today, and recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. I acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Peramangk today.
It’s great to be here in this remarkable space in the Adelaide Hills, the Hahndorf Academy and I want to recognise the toil of the director Rachael McElwee, all the staff, volunteer, board members and artists who come together creating this thriving cultural oasis.
I also want to shout out to William Henry, we know you are out there somewhere and hope that she comes home soon!
Appropriation, the intentional borrowing, copying and alterations of pre-existing images and objects is as old as artist expression itself.
For millennia artists have employed this strategy, both absorbing and acting as a mirror for ideas, remixing, resampling by expressing new directions and statements layered over the old.
Every culture that has trod this earth, save the 65 000 year old Aboriginal culture of this place we all gratefully call home, has taken elements and reimagined them and created the new.
And yet when in 1991, a spritely young man of meagre means who had migrated with his family from Old Blighty challenged the status quo with his first exhibited foray, he was derided. “Vandal” shouted some headlines.
But my favourite clipping is that of October 1991 in the Advertiser
“Outside the Federal Court, Mr. Armstrong, dressed in a fluorescent green suit decorated with crop circles and question marks, said he had daubed the Bannon painting for reasons of philosophy.
This ballsy ratbag who so many of us are proud to have as a friend and colleague had his work dragged from the gallery walls the Federal Court injunction ripped it down but left him even now without his day in court.
And yet something bigger had begun, Driller Jet Armstrong had pioneered a movement.
The marketing for this exhibition notes that Driller Jet Armstrong has been painting over paintings by other artists for many years, often reworking Australian landscapes to include indigenous symbols.
Lt James Cook declared Terra Nullius appropriating this land through violence and suppression.
He claimed the great lie that this land was a blank canvas on which he begun the creation of a new colony.
Fittingly through his Daubist exploration Driller returns the culture and people to those idealised landscapes that perpetuated the invasive appropriation of the early colonists.
And it is this return which is the overwhelming tone of this exhibition today.
Daubists especially Driller have caused a storm, in the press, in arts circles, among critics, in parliament and the courts.
ANU academic Matthew Rimmer wrote that Daubists are in some respects a retro, nostalgic group. They see themselves as archivists, conservationists, and curators of original works of art, he said.
In the Daubism debate, Driller argues that Australian landscape paintings were idealised visions of nature based upon inappropriate European models.
Driller describes landscape paintings were 'white man's dreaming' and 'little pretty pictures', which only represented a small part of the world. The Daubists proclaim: 'One could say that white Australia itself is a daub on this continent'
Driller is a remarkable artist and man, beating the cancer challenge,
running the most renown internationalised venue for over a decade in town when laneways and pop ups were a mere glimmer in a vibrant policy makers eye and last year bringing Adelaide’s own version of Montemarte to Victoria Square he continued to challenge traditional notions of originality and test the boundaries of what it means to be an artist.
Daubism has found its place in the Australian art scene and beyond.
But daubs can now be legally challenged in the Australian because the law has been changed giving Australian artists ‘moral rights’, as well as copyright over their paintings, even after sale.
Driller puts this best when he wrote that
“It seems ironic that European culture invaded this country and many others and yet that same culture legislates to prevent the invasion of its own artefacts arising from the well of traditional western art practice, while ignoring postmodern art practices and developments from its more recent history.”
I guess few artists could ever claim to have shaken the foundations of the establishment so hard that the law was changed, but I guess few artists are like our Driller.
But does this deter our alien crop circle inspired artist?
Well I think we can see the answer for that here, in cutting his own path to reconciliation between Aboriginal and the cultures of later settlers, Driller daubs.