On Display: GOMA, Gallery 3.4
Simon Gende is known for paintings that comment on contemporary politics and society. No 1 Kiap blong Australia Mr Jim Taylor I brukim bush long Highlands Papua Niugini provides historical commentary on the period of Australian trusteeship and is an example of how Papua New Guineans are revisiting and rewriting their own history.
The painting’s subject, Jim Taylor, was the first Australian patrol officer or ‘kiap’ to undertake an exploratory mission in the Papua New Guinea Highlands. Traveling with patrol officer John Black and medical assistant Pat Walsh, as well as a large group of Papua New Guinean police and carriers, Taylor left Mount Hagen in March 1938 on an epic exploring patrol lasting 15 months.
Rendered as silhouettes in Gende’s painting, Taylor and a group of three elaborately dressed carriers take the Australian flag across the mountainous landscape, reminiscent of Neil Armstrong’s planting of the American flag on the moon.
Acutely observed, Gende’s Highland carriers precede the flag and the coming of new ways that the patrols issued in. Some 50 years later Taylor’s daughter, lawyer and Papua New Guinea diplomat, Dame Meg Taylor, retraced her father’s historic journey in the documentary My Father, My Country 1989.
Simon Gende is one of Papua New Guinea’s most respected contemporary painters. Gende lives and works in Port Moresby, Goroka, and his village in the Highlands in Chimbu Province. Gende was taught to paint by his kinsman Mathias Kauage, a senior artist from Chimbu.
While Gende’s work has been influenced by the late Kauage’s style and themes — exemplified by decorative qualities, saturated colours and the depiction of urban life — he developed the use of the silhouette and has extended his subject matter to include the depiction of contemporary events, often gleaned from the local Post Courier newspaper.