An installation by Orange based artist Victor Gordon at the Orange Regional Gallery
Opening Friday the 24th April – 5th July 2015
This exhibition coincides with the 100 year Anzac Day Commemoration and is the culmination of eighteen months preparation. The Orange Regional Gallery is hosting a site-specific art installation intended, not as a static commemorative exhibition to be viewed passively, but as a simulated emotional and intellectual experience intended to provoke thought. Gallery 2 will be transformed to provide a powerful and perhaps confronting artistic response to the supreme sacrifice of soldier volunteers in WWI.
It will provide an historical overview of the military hierarchy and the human resources required to conduct the Great War. The statistics of all Australian volunteers who died as well as those of our community here in Orange and districts will be included.
A large scale 9 metre long panelled painting will take up one entire wall of Gallery 2. The painting sets ‘the stage’ by [re]presenting the industrial-scale magnitude of tombstone production to meet the demand of the War Graves Commission for an adequate and tasteful commemoration of the dead.
While of intense topical interest at this moment in time to the general viewer on a national scale, Gordon’s installation is directed towards engaging and addressing the local community of Orange, by symbolically bringing together and bringing home, the (approximately 120) volunteers from our district who died in WWI.
Attention will importantly be drawn to one individual, Private Ernest Lachlan Powter, who was the youngest volunteer from Orange to die. Being born on 9th march 1900, he was fifteen when he lied about his age to go to the war and was dead by the time he was sixteen!
Concurrently An image of Alec Campbell, who volunteered at age sixteen and survived to become the last Anzac to die, also features. Of note is his personal reflection on Anzac which evolved and developed after his war service as he matured.
The installation will additionally include reference to contemporary local and national opposition to the war. The shaming symbol of their non patriotic stance, the white feather, will form an integral aspect of the installation, which highlighted the divisive sentiment on the home front and peaked around the two failed conscription referenda debates which divided the nation. Orange was not excluded.
Gordon’s art will provide thoughtful insights into the tough choices young men faced; to volunteer and potentially die, be wounded or otherwise be permanently affected or, face being labelled a coward — which could mean becoming a social outcast, forever stigmatised.
By highlighting the devastating cost of Australia’s voluntary participation in the Great War in young Australian lives, Victor Gordon’s aesthetic response to the Anzac legacy will provide much food for thought.
Amandla – The Punch and Jury Show 1989 – is an assemblage featured in the group exhibition Brave New World…20 Years of Democracy currently on exhibition at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town. The exhibition showcases work acquired by the National Gallery in the last twenty years after the transition to democracy.
The work created by Gordon in 1989 centrally features a red-fisted plastic hair comb raised in the symbolic defiant gesture of black resistance to the Apartheid system. It is positioned emerging from a car tyre fragment, a reference to the gruesome punishment of necklacing (halsnoor) meted out to informers and collaborators of the ‘system’. The backdrop is a simplified stage-like settings with wooden curtains and aluminium patterned checker plate, a stylised reference to the parallel patterning found on traditional Zulu shields.
Azikwele (‘We will not ride’)—Fare raize 1983, Oil on canvas by Victor Gordon
Azikwele – (we will not ride) Fare Raze – 1983
In this oil painting a Johannesburg Putco (Public Utility Transport Company) bus burns in a barren landscape. (Note the number plate with the town and date of the painting). For Gordon this represented a veritable tableau of the South African landscape at that time and was his response to the nationwide bus boycotts. PUTCO buses were a privileged government subsidized White-owned company who directly applied government repressive measures by consistantly raising fares – hence the pun in the title, which were crippling to family budgets. They were a strong symbol of the Apartheid machine and an accessible, if violent, outlet for the people’s intense anger.
The bus burns out of control. In the distance what appears to be an ambulance heads away from the destruction, perhaps ignoring it. The single telephone wire supported overhead representing communication and civilization itself, terminates at this point, beyond which the action occurs. The pole and transverse beam form the traditional cross used by the Romans for crucifixions, hinting at the suffering and martyrdom that has led to this conflagration and destruction.
This painting was one of the early works Gordon created addressing the political issues of Apartheid South Africa. His interest in naturalistic representation became fuelled by the needs of pragmatism in the cause of agitprop art. The work is didactic in form and politically suffused in content.
Victor Gordon’s work from the Ifa Lethu collection also showing Diane Victor’s drawing from the permanent collection of the University of South Africa (Unisa). The 20/twenty exhibition was opened by George Bizos as part of the celebration of twenty years of Democracy in South Africa. The exhibition ran from 11 April to 7 May 2014. The Ifa Lethu collection fills important gaps in South Africa’s previously lost artistic heritage.
Art works by Victor Gordon (among others) from the “Coming Home – art repatriated by Ifa Lethu Foundation” exhibition as part of the South African Season in France May/June 2013 curated by Curate.a.Space
More at ENSA Nantes supported by the eThekwini International Relations project and SA French Season