Blue Poles, 2004
perspex, two-pack medium density fibreboard, steel, fluorescent tubes and fittings, electrical cable
x 35.0 cm
Gallery Barry Keldoulis, Sydney
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004
Blue Poles, Gallery Barry Keldoulis, Sydney, 4 – 27 November 2004
Out of the Ordinary, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 August 2017 – 11 Feb 2018
No. 2 from an edition of 3 (first edition).
A second edition of 3 was made for the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne in 2010.
"The title blue poles makes particular reference to a work by Jackson Pollock to highlight the role of appropriation within Western art movements. (Pollock’s appropriation of First Nation ground works is widely critiqued.) But it also captures a number of interconnected ideas.
For example, blue poles also considers the extraordinary work of the late artist Gordon Bennett, who was the leading Aboriginal voice on appropriation in Western art and often looked at Pollock’s practice.
It also looks to the Australian modernist painter, curator and former Art Gallery of NSW director Tony Tuckson. Tuckson, much like Pollock, was inspired by Indigenous art movements. However, he actually owned his modernist point of inspiration and spent much of his life dedicated to Indigenous art. Not only did he provide the Art Gallery of NSW, but all Australian galleries, with a foundation to understand, display and curate Aboriginal art. The level of dialogue with ‘primitive art’ – as Tuckson called it at the time – achieved within his practice is unparalleled.
And then, as you mention, the title also references Pollock within an Australian context. The Whitlam government acquired the painting for the National Gallery of Australia in 1973. During his term, Whitlam generated important reform for Aboriginal people. So thanks to Whitlam, and Tuckson and Bennett, Aboriginal people will always be in dialogue with the western canon and not just a subject. This work thinks about these national works, issues and people to generate a better understanding of them." (Jonathan Jones interviewed by Lisa Catt https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/blog/posts/artist-interview-jonathan-jones/)
Jonathan Jones is a Sydney-based artist and a Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi man. His work discusses the complex history of appropriation in the history of Western art, often aiming to invert the ‘borrowing’ of Indigenous art forms around the world by doing the same with canonical figures in modern art like Jackson Pollock in his 2004 sculpture, blue poles.
Born in 1978 and having studied at the College of Fine Arts in the late-1990s, Jones’s work quickly began to expand to a broad array of materials from drawing and sculpture, through to film and site-specific installations. Inspired by his grandmother, a Wiradjuri artist, his work mixes an understanding of traditional practices with critical and art historical references and stylistic touches. In particular, Jones favours the use of light as a medium that allows, as he put it, "the mapping of relationships and the representation of knowledge in ephemeral yet connected ways. I’m interested in the way light transgresses space and operates within and beyond the physical constructs of its environment." (Jonathan Jones and Lisa Catt, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2017.)
Jones began exhibiting in Australia and overseas in the late-1990s. At the Tarnanthi Festival, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, in 2019, Jones along with Bruce Pascoe and Bill Gammage mounted Bunha-bunhanga: Aboriginal agriculture in the south-east, an historic exhibition that explored the cultural and agricultural connections and uses of land by Aboriginal Australians prior to European settlement. Jones has exhibited at the 2nd Indigenous Art Triennial, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2012, and multiple Adelaide Biennials of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia.
His work is held by major public collections in Australia, as well as the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, the Palazzo delle Papesse Contemporary Art Centre, Siena, Italy, and major corporate and private collections in Australia and overseas. In 2014, Jones won ‘YOUR VERY GOOD IDEA’, Kaldor Public Art Projects that resulted in 2016 in barrangal dyara (skin and bones), a sprawling installation that stretched across 20,000 square metres in the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens.