ACTIVISM is fundamental to Richard Bell’s art practice and although some of his work might be seen as controversial Bell said that’s exactly what defines his art and why he got into art in the first place.
Bell is a proud Kamilaroi Kooma Jiman Gurang Gurang man and one of Australia’s most important contemporary artists.
This month, his somewhat unsettling new exhibition titled You Can Go Now opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) in Sydney, Bell’s largest ever Australian solo exhibition.
“The title of the exhibition in itself seems quite an innocuous sort of name,” Bell told the Koori Mail.
“By that I mean, after an exhibition, for example, when its about time for people to leave, as someone’s about halfway to the door, I’ll say, “Hey!” and call out to them as if I know them, and when they turn around, and they might even take a couple of steps back toward me, I’ll say, ‘Oh nothing. It’s OK. You can go now,’” Bell says with a chuckle.
Drawing together nearly 40 artworks created across a range of mediums, including painting, installation and video, from major public and private collections, as well as key early works from the artist’s own collection, the exhibition brings together over 30 years of the Bell’s practice from the 1980s through to today.
Featured in the exhibition is Bell’s 2017 Immigration Policy, a synthetic polymer paint on canvas which depicts a black background, and as Bell describes “a white map of Australia” along with the words written in bold orange ‘YOU CAN GO NOW!’
“It just screams out to the viewer, ‘Hello? Emergency! This is an emergency!’” Bell said.
“And you know, in this way, I’m not telling people to f..k off to their faces, and to go back to where they came from, but what I am saying is, ‘Yeah, you can go now,’” he says endearingly.
“So I guess that makes the whole thing a bit…
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