Brook Andrew

Proselytiser, 2000
digital photographic print on acrylic
120 x 120 cm (image); 126.5 x 126.5 cm (framed)
1 from an edition of 10

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Provenance
The artist Aboriginal Art, Australian Photography & Digital Art, Sotheby's, Melbourne, 5 October 2004, Lot No. 183
Private collection, Melbourne


Exhibited
Brook Andrew: Eye to Eye, Monash University Museum of Art, 2007, p. 54; 55 (illus.) Maud Page, Polemics, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, 2000, exh. cat. pp. 2-3



Proselytiser (2000) depicts an Indigenous preacher in a blue suit and cowboy hat carrying a large bible in the middle of a road, encircled by hypnotic rings of light in a Wiradjuri optical pattern that visualise the power of his words. Andrew deliberately emphasises the preacher's handsomeness, rendering him in colour against the black-and-white backdrop and dressing him in a smart blue suit and hat.

Writing about the figure of the proselytiser in Andrew's work, Maud Page noted that "The proselytiser is a timeless figure, he stands for many things and is re-contextualised throughout history... His words become revered, he stands for so much to so many people." (Maud Page, Polemics, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, 2000, exh. cat. pp. 2-3.)

On the other hand, proselytisers are often figures who are ignored, especially when their preachings do not align with traditional beliefs. That irony of being both respected and compelling but often looked over by society at large produces a compelling  allegory for broader questions of race and prejudice within Australian society.

Another large digital print on acrylic from the edition is held in the Vizard Foundation Art Collection, Melbourne. A further edition of 5 cibachrome prints was made, one of which is in the collection of the Casula Powerhouse, Sydney.

  • Proselytiser

Image courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney


View artist profile

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.