REW HANKS

BIOGRAPHY

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 has a Master of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts, University of Sydney. Internationally, Hanks has been awarded the Megalo International Print Prize (2020), 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, Istanbul, Turkey (2011) and Grand Prize in the 8th Bharat Bhavan International Biennal of Print-Art, Bhopal, India (2008). Nationally, Hanks has been awarded the Lerida Estate Acquisitive Prize (2020), Freemantle Arts Centre Print Award (2019), Burnie Print Prize (2019), 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 National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Art Gallery of South Australia, Artbank and several significant regional and tertiary collections.

ARTIST CV

DOWNLOAD HERE

WORKS

CONTACT GALLERY FOR PRICE INFORMATION

PAST EXHIBITIONS

CAPTAIN'S CHOICE: A SURVEY 2001 - 2019

SELECTED BY ALISA BUNBURY

6 TO 24 MAY 2020

EXHIBITION ESSAY

Sydney-based printmaker Rew Hanks is the master of the colonial parody. Over many years he has created imaginative and profusely layered compilations exploring the heavy footprint of the British occupation of the numerous Aboriginal nations of this continent. In his accomplished linocuts, various carefully researched elements appear: characters such as James Cook, Joseph Banks, Arthur Phillip, the artist himself may meet with Woolarawarre Bennelong, Trugernanner and Adam Goodes. Set in John Glover pastorals, ferny forests and Botany Bay, protagonists partake in Scottish golf, English cricket and Polynesian surfing; hard-hoofed grazers, rabbits, cane toads and cats intermingle with kangaroos, dingos, Tasmanian tigers, banksia men and boomerangs.

For this exhibition Hanks has created two more tales in his ongoing reinterpretation of Australia’s colonial history. In these new prints he explores French associations with early colonial Australia. Napoleon Bonaparte’s interest in the possibilities of the Pacific had started early when, as a young lieutenant, he applied to join the much-anticipated French expedition led by Comte de la Perouse. The history of Europe would have been utterly different had Napoleon been accepted, and died in 1788 along with his shipwrecked crewmates after they sailed from Botany Bay.[1] The Empress Josephine’s interest in Australia was less adventurous but more intellectual, even avaricious – she had a collector’s compulsion and the means to garner vast quantities of exotic plants and animals from distant countries. Her estate Malmaison outside Paris became a horticultural haven and, with the return in 1804 of the French voyage of exploration (originally led by Nicholas Baudin), Josephine’s hothouses and gardens were abounding with Australian species.

Hanks’ two figures in these meticulously carved linocuts speak to each other, their eyes meeting beyond their frames, Josephine from her fantastical personal zoo, with Malmaison beyond the distant bridge; Napoleon from his exile, kept company by Josephine’s pug Fortune (said to have bitten him on their wedding night). Her diadem – once pearls, now wattle blossom – is echoed in his cockade, and over her head black cockatoos – mates for life, unlike them – swoop like protective angels.[2]

In Josephine’s ark, Josephine takes on the role of Spartan queen Leda who caught the eternally roving eye of Zeus, one of many such myths that gave artists through the centuries scope for soft porn in classical form. Hanks has chosen a long-lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci as his model, in which Leda responds with a coy smile to Zeus-in-swan-guise, who embraces her with his wing, seduces her with his sinuous neck. In contrast, Hanks’ Josephine pays little attention to her avian amour but looks to her emperor, sexually confident yet shunned by him when their relationship proved childless. Leda and Zeus were more fecund – from their unnatural union Leda bore two eggs, two sets of twins, one of which was Helen (she whose beauty is blamed for the Trojan War).

Josephine's ark

In Hanks’ version the newly hatched babes at the feet of Leonardo’s Leda are replaced by the awkward form of a dodo, a harbinger not of birth but death, overwhelmed by one of the waves of extinctions that have resulted from European colonisation and its hungry ship-borne hordes. While black swans bred successfully at Malmaison, neither the kangaroos nor emus that roamed in Josephine’s park thrived; indeed the small emus depicted behind her were among the last of their kind. Josephine’s Ark was awarded the 2020 Megalo International Print Prize.

In Napoleon in exile, the former self-proclaimed emperor stands on a precarious cliff edge, the ominous sky reflecting frustration at his restrictive punishment of exile on a remote island (Britain’s solution to their prisoner problem). The broad arrow on his otherwise-elegant military uniform hints at his convict-like status – is this mid-Atlantic St Helena or maybe an Australian coastline, as suggested by the hopping creatures, both Antipodean and introduced, behind him? The departing ship cannot help him, nor a prototype submarine in which he had failed to invest.[3] Small comforts are indicated around him – his bee-emblazoned coffee cup, a cognac bottle, his oriental chess set with which he passed his last years, to which Hanks had added one of Josephine’s hothouse pineapples, kangaroo paw and banksia blossom, as well as the protective pug.

Napoleon in exile

And the emu reappears. Seemingly shrunk, this emu is an example of island dwarfism, one of the smaller subspecies of emus which Baudin and Matthew Flinders found on King and Kangaroo Islands as they vied to map Australia’s coastline. Live birds and dead skins reached France, while on their home islands these emus were quickly driven to extinction. Is Hanks referencing Napoleon’s reputed short stature? Both Napoleon and Josephine were islanders themselves – Josephine born on the tropical French-Caribbean island of Martinique, Napoleon on French-occupied Corsica in the Mediterranean. Could island dwarfism explain Napoleon’s size, his imperial ambitions due to the eponymous Napoleon complex? In truth, he was average height for his time, although the British media delighted in showing him as a tiny tantrummer. Certainly there was no advantage for the emu in its small scale once Europeans – explorers, whalers, sealers and vermin – arrived.

In many ways Hanks continues the British genre of satirical prints, particularly popular in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which humorously parodied people of note and their actions. Avoiding the often-scathing speech bubbles used by caricaturists such as James Gillray and George Cruikshank, Hanks asks his viewer to look carefully, to ponder his collaged characters, and to know more than a little Australian history to join in his joke. The tonal and textural complexity that he conjures throughout painstaking and precise cutting of the lino block, refined over decades of practice, is remarkable. Once again Hanks has given his audience an engaging puzzle of motifs and metaphors, visual twists and turns, iconographic snapshots that we may recognise, or may not – the choice is ours.

 

Alisa Bunbury, 2020

Alisa Bunbury specialises in prints and drawings, and Australia's colonial art. She is currently a curator at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, and a freelance writer and curator, and has previously worked at the National Gallery of Victoria and Art Gallery of South Australia.

 

[1] https://theconversation.com/the-mystery-of-the-la-perouse-expedition-survivors-wrecked-in-torres-strait-81901

[2] Through Josephine wattle was introduced to France; through Napoleon silver wattle now grows on St Helena.

[3] Designed by American engineer Robert Fulton, the Nautilus was demonstrated on the Seine in 1800.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

The beauty of ink  2001

linocut, edition of 30, 72 x 57 cm

$1,000 unframed, $1,400 framed

 

English painter, printmaker and pictorial satirist William Hogarth painted a self-portrait The Painter and his dog in 1745. Hogarth portrayed himself as a learned artist supported by volumes of Shakespare, Milton and Swift in casual attire. He shares his own theories on art by inscribing the palette with ‘Line of Beauty and Grace’. Hogarth’s favourite pug dog Trump represents the artist’s legendary pugnacious nature.

In Rew Hanks’ self-portrait he parodies Hogarth’s work questioning the supremacy continually bestowed upon painters over the manufacturers of the ‘minor’ art form of printmaking. Provocatively his palette is emblazoned with the words The beauty of ink. The foreground is cluttered with tools of the trade frequently used by printmakers and reminiscent of Hogarth’s own graphic interpretation The Painter and his dog Trump. Hanks’ pug, a very rotund ‘Tilly’ appears to share her master’s battle with an ever-expanding girth. It is very obvious that both Hogarth and Hanks share a deep fondness for this very odd looking breed.

Elin Howe

 

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Fearless Tassie tiger hunter  2001

linocut, edition of 20, 56 x 40 cm

$1,000 unframed, $1,400 framed

 

Fearless Tassie tiger hunter uses a linocutting tool to make, literally and figuratively, a laconic comment on the artist’s role. It is a self-portrait of Hanks, who parodies the difference between nineteenth century ideas about hunting and masculinity and his personal pursuits in the world of contemporary art. This work implicitly acknowledges the power of printmakers (and other artists) to re-figure the thylacine and redress nineteenth century extinction practices. To appreciate the range of ideas generated by the interplay of visual, verbal and narrative text in all of Hanks’ prints requires attention to their details and some familiarity with the history of the thylacine, as well as a particularly robust sense of humour.

Carol Freeman

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Trojan tiger versus the wooly redcoats  2002

linocut, edition of 25, 51 x 102 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

Hanks reworks John Glover’s painting Mount Wellington and Hobart Town from Kangaroo Point (1834) described as a ‘prophetic image... [that] clearly pictures... the stark division between Aboriginal and European societies which has troubled Australian identity for over two hundred years’, into a wry visualisation of indigenous empowerment. The black and white print medium of The Trojan Tiger versus the woolly redcoats transforms the muted blue and gold landscape of Hobart Town as depicted in Glover’s work into an ominous index of fear and anger. As a central image, the Trojan thylacine acknowledges the connections between the Palawa people and the thylacine that existed in Tasmania for thousands of years before European settlement. Also implicit in the print is an analogy between the persecution of the thylacine and the treatment of the Palawa.

Carol Freeman

CLICK TO ENLARGE

The defeat of the Trojan tiger  2003

linocut, edition of 25, 62 x 94 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

This print pays homage to John Glover’s painting My Harvest Home from 1835. Glover depicts his Patterdale Farm at Deddington in Northern Tasmania after receiving a land grant of 2,560 acres from the Tasmanian Government.  My Harvest Home celebrates the farm’s success, representing a bountiful harvest, the possession of fertile land and the artist’s newfound status as a gentleman farmer.  The waist-coated figures in the foreground are convict labourers who were assigned to the Glovers and free labour profited colonists until late into the 1800’s.  In this print they are shown probing pitchforks into a huge timber Trojan Tasmanian Tiger searching for any form of aboriginal life after what appears to be a failed coup of Hobart Town. Scatted throughout the field are tee-pee like bales of hay which grimly shield the cremated remains of the Tasmanian indigenous resistance.  The Trojan Tiger stands on top of a large Tasmanian bark canoe seen in the print The Trojan Tiger versus the woolly redcoats preparing to float across the Derwent river to optimistically invade Hobart Town. In the evening light the bullock team form a cortege that represent the demise of both the indigenous Tasmanian peoples and the Tasmanian Tiger.

Rew Hanks

CLICK TO ENLARGE

King Bungaree at the bottle tree  2010

linocut, edition of 30, 100 x 71 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

In King Bungaree at the bottle tree 2010, the central figure is taken from Augustus Earle’s Portrait of Bungaree, a native of New South Wales c.1826. Bungaree (d. 1830) lived in colonial Sydney, although he was originally from Broken Bay, and became highly adapted to life in the settlement, maintaining good relations with a number of governors, and serving as an intermediary between Indigenous people and the white settlers. He is shown wearing European dress, including a cocked hat (echoing a boomerang) and a breastplate, presented to him in 1815 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, with the invented title ‘Bungaree: Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe’. Bungaree accompanied Matthew Flinders on his 1801–02 circumnavigation of Australia, the first Aborigine to do so. Flinders’ cat, Trim, is shown in the lower left of the image. Somewhat wooden in appearance, the image is taken from a bronze sculpture that sits on a window ledge of the Mitchell Library in Macquarie Street. The [Sydney’s Royal Botanic] Gardens has a few specimens of bottle tree; in its branches are flying foxes, which have infested trees in the Gardens since 1900, destroying many valuable plants. As they are protected, humane methods of removing them have been the subject of much public controversy.

Anne Ryan

CLICK TO ENLARGE

The devil's garden  2011

linocut, edition of 30, 100 x 75 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

The central figure, John Gould is taken from an oil painting by Henry Williams c. 1839. Gould, splendidly attired, is on a collecting foray in the Tasmanian bushland during his eighteen-month visit to the colonies. On his return to England, Gould published his beautifully illustrated books The Birds of Australia and The Mammals of Australia. The images of the platypus, Tasmanian tiger and devil and bush turkey are adapted from the hand-coloured lithographs found in these publications.

The young giraffe grazing under the trees was one of three giraffes sent by Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt to Europe in 1827. This giraffe was a gift to King George IV but unfortunately died within two years of its arrival in England. The King commissioned the young Gould who was a highly skilled taxidermist to stuff his recently deceased pet. The King’s request gave Gould his first taste of publicity and a vision of the public’s growing interest in natural history and the exotic. Opposite the giraffe, Charles Darwin’s HMS Beagle can be seen berthing at Hobart Town in 1836 during its five year world voyage. On his return to England in 1837, Darwin asked Gould to classify several new species of birds that he had collected from the Galapagos Archipelagos. Gould identified nine new species of brown finches that became known as Darwin’s finches. This played an important part for Darwin when formulating his theory on evolution.

A loyal Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine) stands at Gould’s side as if posing for posterity. Unfortunately, the last Tasmanian tiger died less than one hundred years later at a Hobart Zoo in 1936. After endless sightings and optimistic attempts at cloning, the striped marsupial’s extinction seems certain.  A group of Tasmanian devils play in the foreground. Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that they are all identical. This questions the likelihood of success by ‘Devil Ark’ to successfully breed a ‘free range’ colony of devils at Barrington Tops in New South Wales. Unfortunately, the natural genetic diversity of the devils on Tasmania is limited and its extinction may have already commenced.

Rew Hanks

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Krefft's chair  2012

linocut, edition of 30, 102 x 76 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

Gerard Krefft  (1830-1881) was one of Australia’s first and leading zoologists and palaeontologists. In addition to many scientific papers, he wrote The Snakes of Australia and The Mammals of Australia. Krefft formally described the Queensland lungfish suggesting it could be the ‘missing link’ between fishes and amphibians.

Krefft was Director of the Australian Museum from 1864 – 1874. He built up the museum’s collections and won international repute as a scientist. Kreft corresponded with Charles Darwin and was one of the few Australian scientists to accept Darwin’s theory of evolution and disseminate his ideas in the 1860’s. Eccentrically, he secretly staged a fight between a snake and a mongoose in the museum’s basement for the visiting Duke of Edinburgh.

Devoted to the museum’s interests, Krefft clashed with the trustees, notably Sir William Macleay who was building up his private collection at the expense of the museum. The staunchly conservative religious views of the board of trustees strongly opposed Krefft’s radical theories on evolution. They strategically charged him with drunkenness, theft and disobeying the trustee’s orders.

In 1874 Krefft was fired. Refusing to vacate his office, he was physically carried by two prize fighters from the museum while still in his chair and was thrown onto the street.  After several appeals to the Supreme Court, Krefft was left demoralised. Without his livelihood, he was left destitute and died of congestion of the lungs.

Krefft’s chair can be found outside the boardroom at the Australian Museum as if patiently waiting for the next dismissal.   

Elin Howe

CLICK TO ENLARGE

"Banks, which one is mine?"  2013

linocut, edition of 30, 103 x 75 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

In “Banks, which one is mine?” we quickly recognise the faces of both Captain Cook and Joseph Banks. Both men wear the unamused expressions by which we have learned to identify ‘great men’, but what are they doing with golf clubs? And then the details start to register—cane toads abound around their feet, one couple even fornicating; St Andrews clubhouse, mecca of contemporary golf, nestles gracefully in the middle distance; kangaroos forage on the course; and cattle graze near a windmill behind a picket fence. This is bizarre, but as a smile forms on the viewer’s face, so also does a question start to present itself about the story here.

Based on a well-known golfing image, L.F. Abbott’s (1790) The Blackheath Golfer which became the first golfing poster produced, Hank’s linocut depicts a dandified gentleman out for a game of golf attended by his manservant carrying a bundle of clubs. The original image contains a grand country house, the windmill and the picket fence. Hanks reproduces the composition exactly, but maps Cook’s face (the one familiar from our history books, Nathaniel Dance’s 1775 portrait) on to the golfing dandy and the equally recognisable image of Banks’ face (from Joshua Reynolds’ 1773 portrait) on to his manservant. The grand country house becomes St Andrews and other smaller details are added to invite closer inspection—note Cook’s belt-buckle.

Elin Howe

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Surfing the bombora  2013

linocut, edition of 30, 100 x 74 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

Surfing the bombora puts sporting culture firmly within its sights. In this image, Hanks focuses his critical gaze on macho surfing culture—we see a wooden and graceless Cook, improbably staying upright on his board as he surfs a bombora, accompanied by the ubiquitous cane toad. Bombora is originally an indigenous term for large sea waves which break over a submerged reef or sand bar, but it has been subsumed into contemporary surfing language and abbreviated as ‘bommie’. Because of the obvious danger, riding a bommie confers immediate hero status on the surfer. And right on cue there is a bevy of Hawaiian maidens watching this hero admiringly from the shore. But wait, behind them is the Botany Bay Hotel. Something is wrong. There are never waves, and certainly not bomboras, in Botany Bay—it’s a flat enclosed stretch of water. Despite this improbability, Surfer Cook has absolutely absorbed  the ethos of macho surfing culture—he puts surfing before all and neglects his duty to record the transit of Venus, happening above in a murderous-looking sky; and he becomes an instant exhibitionist, showing off in front of the beach maidens and drinkers on the pub verandah. He’s also neglecting Botticelli’s Venus (art), as she waits patiently for him in his transit-of-Venus tent. Other details lurk, waiting to be discovered: Brett Whiteley’s famous matchstick sculptures in the background symbolically interred within a funereal iron fence; Ned Kelly, mingling on the verandah with other pub patrons; and Cook is (impossibly) wearing the beautifully embroidered, but unfinished, waistcoat his wife Elizabeth was making for him at the time of his death. Incommensurable notions clash, but despite this, Hanks’ witty critique of the privileging of sport over art and the problematic relationship between sport and alcohol in Australian culture is clear.

Elin Howe

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Rabbit pie  2013

linocut, edition of 30, 42 x 64 cm

$1,000 unframed, $1,400 framed

 

This satirical still life celebrates the spoils from a prosperous week a rabbiter may have had in the 1930’s after selling his wares of fresh rabbit carcasses and their skins. This candlelit feast offers a tin of fresh tobacco, a cold pint of lager and a steaming hot rabbit pie with ‘extra’ personality. This whimsical print compares an era when rabbit was a staple part of many Australian’s diets, known as ‘poor man’s chicken’, to contemporary cuisine where wild and farmed ‘white’ rabbits are served as a delicacy at elite restaurants. The matchbox carries the logo of the South Sydney rugby league football team founded in 1908. Some believe the team adopted their name from the catch cry of the street venders calling ‘rabbit-oh’ when selling fresh rabbit meat in the backstreets of Redfern. The candlestick holder is decorated with a blackberry motif, a reminder of the untamable bush where the rabbit seeks refuge and the solitary rabbiter might harvest a healthy snack.

Rew Hanks

CLICK TO ENLARGE

"Stop! There's no need to shoot the natives"  2013

linocut, edition of 30, 75 x 106 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

The interpretation of significant historical artworks is a potent artistic tool for commentary on Australian history. “Stop! There’s no need to shoot the natives” engages with both the iconic 1902 image of Cook’s arrival by Australian impressionist Emanuel Phillips Fox, The Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay (1770) and the more recent 2006 post-colonial interpretation by indigenous artist Daniel Boyd, We call them pirates out here.

In Fox’s painting, Cook is portrayed as a compassionate British explorer who beckons to his crew not to fire on the two Aborigines who have their spears raised ready for possible conflict. In contrast, Boyd’s painting depicts Cook as a ruthless pirate waving a flag emblazoned with a skull and cross bone. A small plume of smoke can be seen on the headland contradicting the notion of Terra Nullius.

In Hanks’ linocut, Cook is seen admonishing his crew as they are about to indulge their hunting impulse. Their targets are two kangaroos ready to take flight. One is from a John Gould lithograph and the other from a George Stubbs painting. The later is one of the first representations of this giant macropod and its recent sale to Australia has been stalled by the British government because of its historical significance. His image challenges the recent decision by the New South Wales government to allow amateur hunters to cull feral animals in National Parks without any supervision and regulations and thus placing the safety of native wildlife in serious jeopardy.   

Hanks’ concerns extend to the thoughtless introduction of many domestic and agricultural species into Australia. Their careless management and eventual accidental release into arid and coastal environments have contributed to it attaining one of the worst records of native species becoming extinct in the world.

French explorer Le Perouse can be seen exiting this colonial calamity on his windsurfer, unfortunately never to be seen again. Perhaps this may reflect Hanks’ views on the permanency of this loss of wildlife and Australia’s lethargic implementations of environmental initiatives to help arrest this rate of extinction from continuing.

Elin Howe

CLICK TO ENLARGE

The captain and his bunnies  2015

linocut, edition of 30, 104 x 78 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

Rabbits were first introduced to Australia when the First Fleet arrived in 1788. Of the five domesticated British silver-grey rabbits that were introduced, three belonged to Captain Arthur Phillips who wished to supplement a very basic diet. Shortly after his arrival, Captain Phillips was promoted to Governor of New South Wales.

While on a misguided quest to understand the indigenous culture, he arranged the kidnapping of the Eora aboriginal man Bennelong and persuaded him to become a useful interpreter for the British. On a beach at Manly, a misunderstanding arose and Phillips was speared in the shoulder. He ordered his men not to retaliate, thus winning the trust of the Eora people. Phillips took Bennelong to England for three years where he was paraded before the English gentry in formal regalia to demonstrate the successful assimilation of the indigenous natives. Upon his return, Bennelong requested that the Governor build him a hut on what has become known as Bennelong Point, where the Sydney Opera House is now perched.

The three portraits of Bennelong highlight the tragic disintegration of the traditional indigenous culture. The inclusion of the bunch of carrots refers to the successful treatment of scurvy that commonly inflicted the sailors of the day. The presence of the three rabbits contrasts with the solitary Bilby that foretells the pending decimation of the native fauna and flora. This is further echoed by the coat of arms on Phillips’ jacket that is adorned with a breeding pair of rabbits who will obligingly help Australia to advance. Perhaps the lucky rabbit’s foot suspended off Phillips’ belt has failed the Australian environment miserably.

Rew Hanks

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Playing for keeps  2016

linocut, edition of 30, 75 x 106 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

This print pays homage to the 1743 painting Cricket on the Artillery Ground produced by Englishman Francis Hayman that depicts the first representation of the modern game of cricket. The batsman is seen holding a hockey shaped cricket bat over his shoulder as the bowler delivers a leather-covered ball underarm.

In this fanciful postcolonial collage, Captain James Cook challenges an Australian Aboriginal team to a game of cricket where the winner keeps possession of Australia. Paradoxically, the cricket team chosen for this print to play against Cook was a real, but often unacknowledged indigenous team that was actually the first Australian team to tour England, nearly a century after Cook’s landing. This indigenous team successfully toured England in 1868, playing 47 matches, winning 14, drawing 19 and losing 14 in six months. After every match, several indigenous team members entertained the English crowds with skillful stunts using the boomerang, nulla nulla and a cricket ball. Two of these team members, Dick-a-Dick and Two-Penny are shown standing behind Cook. They are portrayed as they were in the promotional photographs of the day which presented them wearing under garments commonly known as ‘Long Johns’, as if attempting to hide their black skin. Bowler Johnny Cuzens, who is sporting the team silks, can be seen bowling a deceptive bodyline delivery at Cook.

The aristocratic botanist, Sir Joseph Banks is seated in the foreground as the official scorer of the game, notches the tally in a piece of wood. Over his shoulder, a watchful Mary Wollstonecraft, an English advocate of women’s rights, keeps check of his scoring. In 1792, she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women in which she argued that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education.  Next to the bowler, a frustrated expat Germaine Greer, the major voice of the second-wave feminist movement stands, impatiently waiting a lifetime for her turn to bat. In her first book, The Female Eunuch written in 1970 she promoted the liberation of women, and not just equality.

Beside her is a questioning Truganini, who as a historical symbol of courage and dignity, pleads not just for the rights of the ancestors of her decimated Tasmanian Palawa tribe, but the future of all indigenous peoples. Her outstretched arm spotlights a slightly bewildered Nova Peris stranded in the outfield. Peris was the first indigenous Australian to win an Olympic Gold medal with the Hockeyroos in Atlanta in 1996 and in 2013 became the first indigenous woman elected to federal parliament. In her maiden speech, she said she would be happy to forgo all her athletic accolades just to see Aboriginal Australians be free, healthy and participate fully in Australian society.

Indigenous AFL legend, Adam Goodes, has been ironically transposed as the wicket keeper. His stance and focused stare demonstrate a committed player who realises that the future of the indigenous nation may rest solely in his hands. This print reflects the multiple generations of systemic racial and gender biases entrenched in the Australian sporting ethos - so culturally ingrained that the mere suggestion or implementation of any form of equality may be seen only as tokenistic.

Rew Hanks

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Josephine's ark  2019

linocut, edition of 50, 106 x 75 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

This work was inspired by the Greek myth Leda and the Swan which pictures the god Zeus in the form of a white swan seducing the mortal woman Leda. Many artists have reinterpreted this myth, including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rubens, Cezanne and Cy Twombly, typically portraying Leda as a submissive, subjugated victim. In contrast, she is depicted here as an empowered Josephine Bonaparte who displays contempt for her black Zeus while confidently taking control of her menagerie, estate and her own desires.

In 1799, Josephine Bonaparte purchased Chateau de Malmaison,  a 150 acre run-down estate not far from Paris for an exorbitant 300,000 francs while Napoleon was away fighting the Egyptian Campaign. She transformed the large estate into a botanical and an antipodean zoological garden and established the most comprehensive rose garden in Europe, with over two hundred and fifty varieties. Additionally she built an Olympic-sized greenhouse warmed by twelve charcoal stove heaters, just to grow three hundred pineapples.

In 1800, Napoleon endorsed Nicholas Baudin’s scientific expedition to Australia, where one of the ships became known as Josephine’s Ark. It returned to Paris with no fewer than two hundred live plants, twenty kangaroos, two wombats, four dwarf emus, two black swans plus four hundred other live birds and one hundred and ten mammals. She successfully bred black swans and decorated her house with large sprays of Sydney golden wattle. An invitation to her famous garden parties was sort after by the Parisian gentry, who favoured the unique kangaroos and the novelty of the black swans.

In 1809, Napoleon divorced Josephine as she failed to produce an heir. For the sake of France, Bonaparte married the daughter of the Emperor of Austria, who would bear him a son the following year.

Josephine lived at the Malmaison until her death from pneumonia the aged of 50 in 1814.

Rew Hanks

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Napoleon in exile  2019

linocut, edition of 50, 106 x 75 cm

$2,000 unframed, $2,800 framed

 

This is a satirical portrayal of Napoleon Bonaparte in exile on a small island off the coast of Western Australia. Napoleon was actually exiled twice. Once on Elba, a Mediterranean island off Tuscany where he escaped within the first year and again after the defeat of the French in the Battle of Waterloo, when he was exiled to St Helena, two thousand kilometres off the west coast of Africa for six long years.

Napoleon is depicted as the fallen French Emperor with a bad case of ‘small man syndrome’ (Napoleon Complex). A fanciful scenario has erupted between Napoleon and the male dwarf King Island emu (now extinct), both sizing each other up with inflated chests over a mate, territory or just ego. Maybe it’s ‘tiny island syndrome’. The major size discrepancy fails to deter this fine-feathered beast. Behind Napoleon, a solitary dwarfed marsupial, the quokka, quietly observes these sparing ‘peacocks’, realising it is better left to the big guns.

Littered in the foreground is evidence of the preferential treatment Napoleon was continually given. He received a steady supply of quality coffee, followed by his customized mandarine cognac consumed over a game of chess that he approached like an obsessive military strategist.

The colony of rabbits reminds Napoleon of one of the few times he retreated from a battle after signing the Treaties of Tilsit at the end of the war with Russia. A celebratory rabbit hunt was organised using hundreds of domestic rabbits, and as Napoleon alighted from the coach, the rabbits mistook him as their keeper and charged at him expecting to be fed. They ran up his trousers and into his coat, nipping at anything as they went. Completely outnumbered, he retreated back into the coach, discarding these ravenous little creatures out of the window as the coach sped away.

A defiant pug named Fortune was Josephine’s constant companion. Apparently Napoleon tried to banish Fortune from the marital bed on the wedding night, but Josephine refused to sleep with him unless Fortune was welcomed into their bed.

The Nautilus (an 1800 submarine) can be seen partially submerged in the waters, just out of Napoleon’s view. Once considered by him as a possible addition to his navy, here it may be planning to evacuate him from this isolated hell hole.

Bonaparte was not to escape from this final exile and died a painful death caused by stomach cancer - or was it arsenic poisoning? On his death bed, he repeatedly begged for a final sip of coffee and which he exclaimed was the only good thing about Saint Helena. He also declared his eternal love for France and Josephine. He died aged 51 in 1821.

Rew Hanks

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.

PRICES EXCLUDE GST

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.

Elin Howe

August 2016

NEWS

Screen Shot 2020-07-16 at 6.57.22 pm

REW HANKS’ MAY 20 EXHIBITION REVIEWED BY BRIONY DOWNES IN ART COLLECTOR MAGAZINE, ISSUE 93, P 198

Rew Hanks demonstrates a masterful command of the lino cut with his elaborate black and white images reimagining historical and colonial era scenes through a contemporary lens – finely crafting visual narratives full of so much detail it’s impossible not to keep coming back for more.

Screen Shot 2020-04-15 at 2.23.28 pm

REW HANKS ‘JOSEPHINE’S ARK’ A⁣WARDED FIRST PRIZE IN THE MEGALO INTERNATIONAL PRINT PRIZE AND THE LERIDA ESTATE ACQUISITIVE PRIZE 2020

Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 9.36.45 am

REW HANKS AWARDED 2019 FREMANTLE ARTS CENTRE PRINT AWARD FOR ‘GONE FISHING EAST OF FASKRUDSFJORDUR’⁣

Screen Shot 2019-04-15 at 6.03.48 pm

REW HANKS AWARDED ‘2019 BURNIE PRINT PRIZE’

Rew Hanks’ linocut ‘Gone fishing east of Faskrudsfjordur’ has been awarded the 2019 Burnie Print Prize . Hanks told Tasmania’s ‘The Advocate’ – ‘”It’s a response to the environment of Iceland… It’s the biggest piece I’ve ever done. It’s just over two metres and if you look closely, there’s a man fishing and a team…

REW HANKS ‘THE CAPTAIN AND HIS BUNNIES’ IMPRESSION ACQUIRED BY ARTBANK

REW HANKS ‘THE CAPTAIN AND HIS BUNNIES’ IMPRESSION ACQUIRED BY ARTBANK

REW HANKS FINALIST IN THE BASIL SELLERS ART PRIZE 2016 AT THE IAN POTTER MUSEUM OF ART, MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY

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/