Brook Andrew

Ignoratia from 'Kalar Midday' series, 2004
lifochrome print
103.0 x 160.0 cm

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Stills Gallery, Sydney
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004

Another example of this image is in: M Delany, N Papastergiadis, M Riphagen, B Andrew, G Barlow, A Loxley, L Russell, 'Brook Andrew: Eye to Eye' exhibition catalogue, MUMA, Melbourne, 2007 (illus. p. 22)

"The kookaburra is a museum object, a once-living bird, captured for the institution to ensure a complete display of bird species, and stuffed by a taxidermist. Andrew has re-invented the display bird, hiding its approved museum status as a representative of its species, and endowing it with a flicker of existential drama in the mirror-image arrangement. The two birds convey the dilemma of self and the other: is it possible for the self to know the other? Is the other always only a reflection of the self? In Andrew’s theatre of dreams, they are fated to face away from each other, silent and still." (M Langton, 'Brook Andrew: Ethical portraits and ghost scapes', NGV, 2008)

  • Ignoratia from 'Kalar Midday' series

Image courtesy of Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne and the artist

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.