national gallery of victoria, australia
the NGV is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. as part of the celebrations, three contemporary indigenous artists were commissioned to create work in honour of william barak 1824–1903. dr vaughan (NGV director) has claimed barak as ‘one of the most important figures of nineteenth century australian indigenous art, acknowledging barak’s central place in the history of victoria and the NGV’.
jonathan jones’ commission for barak uses five light boxes, each one illustrating a different trait of barak’s character. the boxes are presented in two huddles referencing barak’s painting, ceremony, which has two fires, one for the wurundjeri people and one for guests.
using led’s, stainless steel and glass this work has a haunting presence on the landing of the stairwell. the light source acts as a feature—some frosting is used—with a different symbolic pattern in each box. the glow from the light boxes fills the stairwell so visitors become aware of the light before they see the installation. like the burning spirit of barak this installation etches a presence into the minds of those who enter its field, leaving an afterglow, an incandescent filament glowing in your soul long after the source is extinguished.
the final element of this work will first be seen in august—and repeated each august— the wall facing edge of the light boxes will turn yellow as a metaphor for barak’s prediction of his own death. early in 1903 barak stated he would die when the wattle bloomed.
photos and text via nothing into something
more about jonathan jones: afraid of the dark
more light sculpture