On Display: QAG, Gallery 1
Gordon Bennett was born in 1955 in the central Queensland town of Monto. Bennett ‘discovered’ his Aboriginality at the age of eleven. The explicit imagery in his paintings concentrates on his Indigenous heritage, the Eurocentric schooling he experienced, the subjectivity of history, patriarchal knowledge systems and racism.
Bennett attended the Queensland College of Art in Brisbane and completed a Fine Arts Degree in 1988. He had already begun exhibiting his large, semi-autobiographical paintings the previous year in group exhibitions at THAT Contemporary Art Space in Brisbane and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.
In 1989 Bennett was included in ‘Australian Perspecta’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and he was one of several Australians to be represented in ‘Paraculture’ at Artists Space, New York in 1990. He was included in the Adelaide Biennial of Contemporary Art the same year.
In 1993 Bennett received the MacGeorge Fellowship from the University of Melbourne. He was a Creative Arts fellow at the Australian National University in 1996, and in 1997 he was awarded the John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize from the National Gallery of Victoria.
From the time he graduated from art college, Bennett’s early work displayed a high level of maturity and a clear sense of direction, but it also flagged his intention to resist certain expectations or categorisations of him as a particular ‘kind’ of artist. He remained uncomfortable with terms such as ‘urban’ or Aboriginal artist, for example, throughout his career, as he consistently drew on imagery and references from Indigenous and Western approaches to art, rather than a preference for one over the other.