Who belongs here?—

Les Kossatz
Tapestry – The Hamilton Wool
Wool, embroidery thread 237 x 292 cm
Made by the Australian Tapestry Workshop, Melbourne
Funded by the 150th Anniversary board and
the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. Hamilton Gallery Collection
© Les Kossatz/Copyright Agency, 2021
Makeda Duong
Mixed Race Sweater
2020 Hand knitted merino wool Dimensions variable Photograph: Radhe Osborn Courtesy of the artist

The town of Hamilton has a strong history of sheep grazing and wool production, and has been referred to as the ‘wool capital of the world.’ The Hamilton Wool tapestry, based on a design by artist Les Kossatz and woven by Cheryl Thornton, Chris Cochius and Joy Smith at the Australian Tapestry Workshop, pays homage to this rich local history. While wool as fleece is a raw material, it can be spun into yarn and knitted into fabrics, as depicted in Makeda Duong’s Mixed Race Sweater. Duong’s hand knitted sweater merges the colours of the Australian flag on the front with the colours of the South Vietnamese flag on the back to explore the complexity of being biracial in Australia, and poses questions of belonging and place.

Francis Bacon
Figure and Washbasin 1976 Aquatint
47 x 36.5 cm
Gift of Mrs Minya Lipkes. Hamilton Gallery Collection © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS/ Copyright Agency, 2021. CR: 76-12, 1976
NC Qin & Felix Esteban
Birdsong 2020
Glass, photography, digital print on aluminium panels
80 x 50 cm
Courtesy of the artists

Reflection and agency connect the pairing of Francis Bacon with NC Qin & Felix Esteban. In Bacon’s aquatint, we see a figure at a washbasin, the form so exaggerated and distended as to appear almost abstract. The curved, sinuous forms of Bacon’s figure are visually mirrored in Birdsong, a contemporary glass reimagining of masks worn by European plague doctors. Modelled by the artist, the resulting photograph confronts the anti- Asian racism that followed the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Qin’s case, is the mask a method of protection, or imagery of ostracization?

Johnny Bulunbulun
Long-Necked Tortoise, Spirit Hunter, Spirits and Prawn
Screenprint 66.4 x 57 cm
Gift of Mr K. O’Shannessy 1980. Hamilton Gallery Collection © Johnny Bulun Bulun/Copyright Agency, 2021
Kait James (Wadawurrung)
Let’s Dance
Wool & cotton on printed cotton
74 x 47 cm
Private Collection Courtesy of the artist

Thinking about home in an Australian context requires an acknowledgement of Indigenous sovereignty and connection to land. Johnny Bulunbulun’s Man and Animals is one of the few Indigenous works in the collection of Hamilton Gallery, and its pairing with Kait James’ Let’s Dance reflects the ongoing and lasting effects of colonisation on Indigenous people today. James repurposes kitsch found tea towels to comment on questions of identity and cultural appropriation, critically examining the ways in which Indigenous culture has been consumed and sold without meaningful political action. The bright words that emblazon the tea towel are a vivid reminder of the work that still needs to be done.