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BBQ this Sunday, BYO

Joan Ross

Joan Ross is an artist with a long history of dissecting Australia’s colonial past. Her works include sculpture and installation, painting, drawing and video. In her recent series, BBQ this Sunday, BYO, Ross returns to this theme with a series of colonialist adaptations of the paintings of Joseph Lycett, an English convict transported for the crime of forgery.

There are many strange contradictions in Ross’ work: the contrast between the acronymic title and the traditional appearance of the work, the juxtaposition of the serenity of the picnic scene with the lurid hi-vis worn by the subjects, even the idea that Australia’s violent colonial past could be brokered through the friendly cultural ritual of an Australian barbeque. It is ironic that through the forgery of paintings by a forger, Ross analyses the clash of traditional landscape, colonial politics and contemporary landscapes.

In this video piece Ross examines the harsh realities and effects of colonisation on the Aboriginal people, which developed amongst the blind prospering of their colonial counterparts. The hi-vis yellow symbolises modernisation, development and European expansion, something initially glaringly out of place that expands to dominate the landscape. Ross utilises this ‘hi-vis symbol’ as something that originally signifies danger but then is transformed into the commonplace and ordinary.

As the film progresses hi-vis expands in the ancient landscape as more guests appear, bringing their own artefacts of civilisation. As the crowd around the BBQ grows, the fluorescence that at first seemed out of place becomes almost natural. Important figures from Australian colonial history arrive, yellow- cladded but empty handed. As the BBQ progresses the fluorescent colours turn into spirographs that hide a small pox molecule that will cause devastation amongst the Aboriginal people. However, the spirographs then turn into fireworks and the sound of celebration can be heard.