Richard Lewer

1970 - Advance Australia Fair 2013 oil on epoxy coasted steel 100 x 100 x 4 cm Collection Shepparton Art Museum, purchased 2013 2013.9

Advance Australia Fair evolved from a period of time Richard Lewer spent in the mining regions of north-west Western Australia. There is a dark political undercurrent to the works from this period as the artist reflects on the construction of national identity through the exploitation of natural resources amidst a backdrop of racism, displacement and drudgery.

Lewer has long used social observation and the scrutiny of community networks as a working methodology. He then applies this transplanted external view to comprehend socio-cultural phenomena in the communities in which he works, with a drive to develop an informed understanding of his subject matter. This work was painted on steel in reference to the materials of the Pilbara. The title of the work is a pun on the Australian national anthem and the idea of a ‘fair go’ that it promises. The artist is here commenting on the irony that accompanies the sense of national pride in the Australian mining industry; while we might have pride in the success of the industry these Australian natural resources are often sold overseas for the benefit of the few.

The embedding of the Southern Cross on the grotesque and distorted head of the subject of the painting suggests that this national identity is a psychological condition while also implying that it might be a sentiment filtered through a gauge of racism; a mentality of ‘us’ versus ‘them’.