Brook Andrew

Ancestral Worship (5 pieces), 2010
Deck chairs and mixed media installation
Size variable

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The artist
Private collection, Adelaide since 2011

21st Century: Art in the First Decade, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 18 December 2010 – 26 April 2011 

"For Ancestral worship 2010, commissioned for this exhibition, Andrew [places] images of people from post-cards collected over 15 years, now inserted into the present [onto the relaxed deck-chair]. These post-cards or cartes de visite were used for tourism, exotic display or personal use in Australia and other colonised countriesand show details of their original settings. As you see, all but one is within a domestic Western context but Andrew is interested in spaces between exotic/other and civilized: the portrait of the young European women was found on a Melbourne street, discarded and crinkled.The work is a warrior’s challenge, of a sort: one can sit beside the images of these dignified people from the past, rather than on them: the choice is ours. Andrew sees the portraits as ‘ancestors’ or  ‘gods’ – here, now, possibly sunning themselves alongside us, gracing us or haunting us with their presence. These exquisite faces remind us how often our shared humanity is betrayed. It’s a provocation set under playful, though arguably, ceremonial trees, in a fool’s paradise perhaps, but importantly it is also a memorial to our ancestors – whatever their origins.” (Julie Ewington, ‘Brook Andrew - Ancestral Worship’, 21st Century: Art in the First Decade, 2010

  • Ancestral Worship (5 pieces)

Image courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

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A Wiradjuri and Ngunnawal man from his mother’s side, Brook Andrew’s practice is grounded in meticulous historical research with works that confront the narratives of colonial history and memorialise the lives and stories that have been erased by historical amnesia. Andrew’s practice resembles a historian, trawling through archival documents to glean new insights into Australia’s history divorced from what he calls the “Colonial Gaze”. His prolific oeuvre includes photography, collage, sculpture and large-scale installations, informed to a large extent by his Australian Aboriginal heritage, culture and language.

Overtly political, Andrew’s art disrupts conventional art practice by incorporating as many different media, disciplines and cross-sections of society as possible. He has a particular interest in ethnographic photography, finding historical images of Indigenous peoples from Australia and abroad and repurposing them, not unlike Gerhard Richter’s 48 Portraits. He makes frequent use of historical images – both ethnographic and art historical – overlaying them with collaged text to pass comment on colonial history and the Western art canon.

Andrew has a compelling vision for each of his exhibition spaces. Incorporating installation pieces along with neon light displays and sculptures, his work and the walls of his exhibitions have included striking black and white linear patterns based off dendroglyphs (or tree carvings) of the Wiradjuri nation. The diversity in medium and form is a manifestation of his vision of the world as a collection of ‘others’, of disparate voices that all deserve to be heard on their own terms.

Brook Andrew has exhibited for over two decades in Australia and overseas. In 2017, the National Gallery of Victoria staged The Right to Offend is Sacred, a survey show or, as he called it, a “museum intervention”. (Judith Ryan with Brook Andrew, Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, p. 2.) The same year, Andrew received a prestigious Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., United States. In 2020, Andrew was Artistic Director of NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney.