Colin Mccahon: A Visual Analysis

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“Often describing his own practice of borrowing images as ‘quoting’, Bennet re-contextualises existing images to challenge the viewer to question and see alternate perspectives,” the previous quote, from the National Gallery of Victoria, accurately describes the successful appropriation of visual and conceptual images from Colin McCahon’s artwork, ‘Victory over death 11’ (1970), in Gordon Bennett’s painting: ‘Self-portrait (but I always wanted to be one of the good guys)’ (1990). Each artwork is influenced by something, knowingly or subconsciously, whether it be a person, text, media, culture, religion or a trend. Pablo Picasso stated “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. Copying is the act of replicating an existing interpretation. Stealing…show more content…
This is specifically demonstrated in his oil on canvas painting; ‘Self-portrait (but I always wanted to be one of the good guys)’ (1990). Supported by the distinct black and large white background, which are visual divisions connoting the racist social division in postcolonial Australia, “I AM”, appropriated from Colin McCahon’s ‘Victory over death 11’, dominates the 150cm x 260cm canvas. A faintly coloured picture of four year old Bennett in a cowboy costume overlays the “I”, representing himself and his view, between the words “I am dark. I am light”, signifying his mixed ethical heritage. Reproduced stylised pictures from past school textbooks showing American Indians with spears fighting white men with rifles occupies the “AM”, depicting the racial conflict and social view of Black vs White. Additionally, Cowboys and Indians are a generic understanding expressing divide, possibly of good vs bad, therefore Bennett’s use of these images expresses the complexity of identity. Colin McCahon’s artwork connotes the fluidity of identity through biblical passages recognizing God, whilst Gordon Bennett appropriates these quotes and re-contextualises them to address the fluidity of identity from a racial stance. Ironically, the use of appropriation also metaphorically demonstrates the mutability of identity. The practice of ‘borrowing’ images allows Bennett to comment or add to the original meaning of the image. By re-contextualising “I AM” Bennet responds to McCahon’s view on identity by adding new perspectives; focusing on race and the dominance of white, western

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