I’m going to tell my children’s children…
In I’m going to tell my children’s children… Paul Sloan presents quintessentially Australian colonial scenes with modern interruptions. A prospector squats and pans in front of a gas station, an early settler poses with his packhorses in front of McDonalds, an explorer and his camel lie dead in front of a Foodland supermarket sign. Using the graphic immediacy of gouache, Sloan strikes a balance between precision and looseness, expression and restraint in order to present a radical re-visioning of the Australian landscape and the stories that are rooted in it.
Seemingly trivial modern settings and everyday objects – a local supermarket chain, a gas station, a McDonalds restaurant, a Farmers Union Iced Coffee – collide with colonial scenes, creating a disruptive tableau that draws our attention to the symbols, signifiers, and conventions at work in each image.
In this way, Sloan eloquently draws out the connections that exist between the Romantic aesthetic conventions of the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century, colonial presentations of the Australian landscape, and their intersection with the modern signifiers and stories of contemporary Australia.
Characterized by the glorification of the past and nature, Romanticism also placed emphasis on emotion and individualism.In the hands of Romantic artists, nature was accorded the exalted status of the sublime. Paintings of the Romantic period connected the sublime to experiences of awe and danger as much as experiences of transcendental beauty. Adventure and exploration were tempered by shipwrecks and tempests. As much as it was in many ways progressive and imbued with hopeful optimism, Romanticism also came to be strongly associated with nationalism.
When European explorers of the late eighteenth century ventured to Australia, their sails were bolstered by the burgeoning intellectual and artistic movement of Romanticism. By the time the young colony had been established in the mid-nineteenth century, Romanticism had become the prevailing artistic convention. Today, we romanticize our colonial past while glamorizing its less than illustrious realities; we share our predecessor’s hunger for commodities – a hunger that has evolved into the fetishisation of brands; and the dark cloud of nationalism looms heavy on our horizon.
This series presents a distillation of South Australian artist’s recent research into the processes of signification and mythmaking inherent in the historical narratives that feed into our national identity. Through its disruptive re-visioning of Australian stories and symbols, I will tell my children’s children… points to history as a convenient tool for the commodification, packaging, and re-packaging of ideas and underlying impulses that seem to remain in circulation, just surfacing in different guises.