Beauty, Vanity and Narcissism: Adam Hill, Garry Lee and Christian Thompson. Curator Djon Mundine OAM — 30 June to 30 July 2011

Three Aboriginal Male Artist-Photographers: Adam Hill, Garry Lee & Christian Thompson
Curator: Djon Mundine OAM

30 June to 30 July 2011


In Arnhem Land when beings, creatures, and people exhibit a type of internal radiated ‘beauty’ at certain times, they are said to be fat, or full of djukurr. It is a period of strongly evident health and vitality. Beauty is exhibited by those attributes deemed culturally as pleasing or impressive or just a socially defined personal appearance. This varies considerably from society to society, culture to culture and time to time.

Vanity isn’t necessarily a bad personal trait as in pride in one’s achievements and knowing your worth. These three artists have much to be vain about: they are good-looking, stylish, intelligent and prescient. They have accomplished artistic careers by any measurement. But, when vanity does appear as excessive pride or conceit it is painful to watch and endure. These three artists have never shown together: Adam Hill and Christian Thompson are ‘photoshop’ generation while Garry Lee’s disarming work retains a documentary aura. Yet their work puts playful/serious questions about stereotypes of Aboriginality.

Christian Thompson’s brazen display is more than a conceited flaunt. In former times and revelatory occasions Aboriginal adult males covered their naked bodies with various painted and adorned spaces and designs. These were in essence a vision of how your soul, your very personal spiritual essence, in all its power and beauty, exists all the time despite the changing form of your outer shell. To be an intellectual in Australia is a terrible burden [maybe a vanity] to carry. Freudians may say that everything is sexual but there is identification with and a joy of meeting the young. Youth is a beautiful thing. This joy of freshness and renewal is Gary Lee’s obsession, search and expression. Adam Hill projects his alter ego, possibly unconsciously, revealing a 1950s ‘Chesty Bond’ Australian male, as a kind of striving sincerity, and yet a send-up of himself, and the idea of the ‘male’.


Extracts taken from essay by Djon Mundine OAM, 2011


Download full essay by Djon Mundine - Beauty, Vanity, Narcassisim - Three Aboriginal Male Artist-Photographers June 2011.

Download Djon Mundine on Adam Hill - Adam Hill: Not a proppa Aborigine, Art Monthly Australia, May 2011.

Download Djon Mundine on Gary Lee - Gary Lee: Bulli Boys, Art & Australia, 48 no. 3, 2011.



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Adam Hill, Big Head, 2011. Photograph Adam Hill, Charged Up, 2011. Photograph

Adam Hill, Every Black Mans Wish, 2011. Photograph




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Gary Lee, Daniel 17 II, 2009. Photograph Gary Lee, Declan 17 II, 2009. Photograph Gary Lee, Michael 17, 2009. Photograph




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Christian Thompson, International Look, 2005. Photograph Christian Thompson, King Billy, 2011. Photograph

Christian Thompson, Installation view. Photo Peter MacKenzie


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Gary Lee, Installation view. Photo Peter MacKenzie Garry Lee & Adam Hill, Installation view. Photo Peter MacKenzie

Adam Hill, Installation view. Photo Peter MacKenzie




Naidoc Week 2011 Website

Stars Sky Tree Breeze: Jagath Dheerasekara. Curated by Djon Mundine.

At the Vanishing Point, 30 June to 17 July 2011.