Richard Lewer

1970 - I wish I was as lucky as you 2013 enamel on found school map 90 x 80 cm Collection Shepparton Art Museum, purchased 2013 2013.10

For this work Richard Lewer has taken a 1960s school wall map and splashed across it the words “I wish I was as lucky as you” in black enamel paint. This particular map shows the distribution of produce across Australia – ‘the lucky country’ – as it existed in the postwar boom. The faded map brings to mind images of a childhood spent slumped on a desk in a sweltering Australian classroom with longings of other places and other activities staving off the boredom.

Lewer created this work during a period of time he spent in the mining regions of north west Western Australia. The desire for better circumstances is evident in the phrase scrawled across the diagram points to the inequality in the distribution of wealth that has stemmed from the resources boom in Australia. The works Lewer created during this period evidence a dark political criticism as the artist highlights the harsh realities of the Australian experience. While this work might on the one hand suggest that Australia is the envy of other nations who would love to have Australia’s “luck”, there is also a much darker potential meaning within the work. Lewer’s art work also speaks to the adversity, dispossession and bloodshed that has been endured on this land – by Indigenous Australians, migrants to this country and Aussie battlers – and their misfortunes on this unforgiving landscape.