Art as militant satire

March 13, 2010

I'm not racist but…
Arc One Gallery
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
until May 1

Adam Hill is a driven man. Descended from the Dhungatti peoples from the Kempsey area, he is also a man for all seasons. His ubiquitous art appears on schools, banners, books, traffic signal boxes, flower beds and architecture.

He's currently featured in Monument architecture magazine, revealing controversies surrounding his cherry picker-inspired facade mosaic on the Koori Radio building in Redfern.

His art is like a message stick: it contains significant messages about the past for the future. He said: "It's not really important what we've done. Rather, what's important is what we haven't done". He told Green Left Weekly this meant using the past to explain the present as well as guiding future action. "Art is language: it should tell the truth and the whole truth about our past, including our ignorance, arrogance and negligence of Indigenous peoples."

Hill is topical, political and articulate.

His latest exhibition, I'm not racist but … , is a weapon of wit aimed at white middle-class mores. His painting Much ado, Abbott nothing depicts Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott, dressed as a country-hayseed zealot — rifle at the ready and clutching a crucifix. "Boat people" are hanged from trees, a reference to jingoistic immigration policies. Abbott doesn't look the viewer in the eye. Foreboding clouds gather in strict military formation overhead with dark linings.

Clouds are a Hill signature, representing government. He says, "They're metaphors for false ceilings, cast ominous shadows and bring lightning, devastation and floods."

The Union Jack is replaced by the Confederate Flag, a symbol of white supremacy in the US southern states. He underscores the painting with text from the long-lost verse five of Advance Australia Fair, which refers to fighting off intruders: "Shou'd foreign foe e'er sight our coast, or dare a foot to land, we'll go to arms like sires yore, to guard our native strand ...".

It's militant satire.

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