Sydney based printmaker and teacher Rew Hanks has held solo exhibitions since 1982 in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and internationally in India. His work has been included in international group exhibitions in Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States. Hanks holds a Master of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts, University of Sydney. Internationally, Hanks has been awarded the Trienniale Print Prize in the 4th Bangkok Triennale International Print and Drawing, Bangkok, Thailand (2015); First Prize in the 9th Kochi International Triennial Exhibition of Prints, Kochi, Japan (2014); First Prize in the IV International Print Exhibition 2011, Istanbul, Turkey (2011) and Grand Prize in the 8th Bharat Bhavan International Biennal of Print-Art, Bhopal, India (2008). Nationally, Hanks has been awarded First Prize, in the City of Hobart Art Prize (2014), Grand Prize in the Open Section, Silkcut Award for Linocut Prints, Melbourne (2013) and First Prize in the Geelong Print Prize, Geelong, Victoria (2008). Hanks has been a finalist in the Blake Prize (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010) and the Basil Sellers Prize 5 at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne (2016). His work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Art Gallery of South Australia and several significant regional and tertiary collections.
THE CATCH OF THE DAY
11 TO 29 APRIL 2018
Rew Hanks visited Iceland for three months in early 2017. This exhibition reflects the artist’s concerns of the effect of climate change on the regions within the Arctic Rim. The seventeen hand coloured linocuts in this exhibition depict the dramatic decline of the puffin populations of Iceland caused by the warming of the ocean currents. Many fish populations have been drastically altered resulting in the starvation of several generations of baby puffins. Hanks also depicts the imbalance of marine ecosystems in the North Atlantic Sea caused by the high density of plastic pollutants.
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THE BAT AND THE BOOMERANG
24 SEPTEMBER TO 16 OCTOBER 2016
"Master printmaker Rew Hanks gives us in the title for this exhibition, The Bat and the Boomerang, a succinct pointer to his subject matter. The work in this show examines Australian sporting culture – specifically systemic racial and gender biases within that culture – offering one of his wry takes on our history." Elin Howe (full essay below)
THE BAT AND THE BOOMERANG
Master printmaker Rew Hanks gives us in the title for this exhibition, The Bat and the Boomerang, a succinct pointer to his subject matter. The work in this show examines Australian sporting culture – specifically systemic racial and gender biases within that culture – offering one of his wry takes on our history.
Hanks has developed a precision linocut technique which convincingly replicates the appearance of eighteenth century prints – the prints on which established versions of colonial history rested. Trawling through historical imagery relating to Australia’s colonial beginnings, he selects the dominant narrative about his chosen subject and with his distinctive wily wit, re-casts the image to tell a different tale – a tale which inevitably requires the viewer to question the accepted version. So assuredly does he do this that it takes a moment before it registers that we are looking at a contemporary image. In that fleeting moment we realise how much our acceptance of historical fact rests on our familiarity with the visual style of our knowledge archives. And the stage is set for that acceptance to be upset.
We start to identify contemporary faces – Adam Goodes, Nova Peris and Germaine Greer – amidst the familiar images of colonial faces like Captain Cook and Joseph Banks. Recognisable also, because postcolonial history has to some extent redressed their historical invisibility, are the faces of Aboriginal go-between figures – Truganini and King Bungaree. From the beginnings of colonial history in the 1770s, go-between figures reached between black and white cultures. Hanks, through his research into our sporting history, here introduces another less familiar go-between figure – the white man Tom Wills – whose extraordinary story lends itself to Hanks’ critique of sporting culture in his two most recent linocuts.
Tom Wills was an all-round sportsman – a talented cricketer and pioneer footballer. Born (1835) into a wealthy family with convict roots, he grew up on pastoralist properties in Victoria, where as a boy he befriended local Aborigines and learned their language and customs. Educated at The Rugby School in England he excelled in the sporting arena, playing later for the Cambridge University Cricket Club and the Marylebone Cricket Club. Returning to Australia in 1856 he continued his sporting success on and off field, becoming a pioneer in the formation of AFL rules. In 1861 while on an eight month trek into Queensland’s outback with his father, the expedition was attacked by local Aborigines and his father was killed. Wills survived the massacre, returned to Victoria and continued his sporting career. Despite his father’s death at the hands of Aborigines, Wills appears to have resisted the prevailing orthodoxy of homogenising them all into one group. Subsequently he coached the first Aboriginal XI drawn from the Western District of Victoria, speaking to them in their native Djab Wurrung language which he’d learned as a boy. This team played the Melbourne Cricket Club to great acclaim at the MCG in 1866 and in 1868, under the captaincy of Charles Lawrence, toured to England where they played 47 matches with even results (14 wins; 14 losses; 19 draws). In addition to performing on the cricket pitch, team members would also often entertain the crowd with exhibitions of spear and boomerang throwing afterwards. Another entertainment popular with the crowds involved hurling cricket balls at a player armed with a Nulla Nulla which he would skilfully use to deflect the balls.
Wills’ later career was marked by controversy as he challenged the establishment over game rules, the amateur/professional divide and other issues. Psychologically scarred by his father’s death, he descended into alcoholism, eventually suiciding by stabbing himself with scissors. For Hanks, Wills’ story is grist to the mill – a complex man who could recognise the humanity and athletic skill of indigenous Australians and was prepared to challenge existing norms in order to play with them.
In The Battle of the Wills, Hanks reconfigures an 1870 heroic cricketing portrait of Wills by William Handcock. Adapting the portrait convention of including objects which allude to the sitter’s attributes, Hanks incorporates clues to Wills’ lifelong efforts to straddle the cultural divide – on the left is Anglo culture with a background image of Wills as a young footballer in Geelong colours; a Merino ram pointing to Wills’ pastoralist background; a bottle of Victorian stout; and one of Wills’ favourite caps; on the right is Aboriginal culture with an image of one of the XI, Dick-a-Dick, who toured England in 1868 and, as the image attests, excelled at the post-game Nulla Nulla exhibition of dodging cricket balls; and in the foreground an indigenous Brushtail Possum, whose presence alludes to the Aboriginal game Marngrook (possum skin football) claimed by some to be a forerunner to the AFL code. In the centre a conflicted Wills, clutching the fatal scissors, is here portrayed as something more complex than a cricketing hero.
In Playing for Keeps Hanks appropriates Francis Hayman’s 1743 painting Cricket on the Artillery Ground to give us another atemporal cultural critique – a high stakes game of cricket between an Aboriginal and a white colonial team. The winner’s prize is Australia. Johnny Cuzens, a member of the 1868 Aboriginal XI and dressed accordingly, bowls a bodyline at Captain Cook; with a recent racial abuse controversy still fresh, wicket keeper Adam Goodes concentrates intensely, as if he alone realises what’s really at stake; an aloof Joseph Banks sits on the sidelines keeping score; other members of the first Aboriginal XI participate too; and on the periphery, generations of activist women, black and white – Nova Peris and Truganini; and feminists Mary Wollstonecraft and Germaine Greer – circulate, impatiently jostling for a go.
With attention, each of the works in this show yields its alternative story, whether it be cricket, surfing, hunting or golf, there is another tale to tell – a tale of exclusion. With his skilful deceptive linocut technique, Hanks momentarily fools us into thinking we are looking at authentic historical images, only to make us realise in the next moment that we are looking at the underbelly of Australian sporting history.
REW HANKS FINALIST IN THE BASIL SELLERS ART PRIZE 2016 AT THE IAN POTTER MUSEUM OF ART, MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY
LINK TO LIST OF FINALISTS BELOW: http://www.sellersartprize.com.au/artists-and-exhibition/2016/shortlisted-artists/
REW HANKS WORK IN ‘ON THE BEACH’ AT MORNINGTON PENINSULA REGIONAL GALLERY UNTIL 28 FEBRUARY 2016
ON THE BEACH A Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery exhibition 11 December 2015 – 28 February 2016 On the Beach considers the place of the beach within Australian life. A public space of recreation and leisure, the beach epitomises the liberties of Australia’s democratic society. While in the lead up to Federation many 19th century artists…