The first A Guide to Australian Bushranging Fan Art February was small but had good participation from our followers. A winner in the give-away has been chosen, but first here’s a re-cap of the artwork that was included…
The first two pieces were submitted by Les Tritton and depict Ned Kelly in his armour. The first is a drawing of Ned on his own with a rifle, the second is a painting of Ned in front of the Glenrowan Inn with a motorcycle to drive home the rebel/outlaw motif. The image of Ned in his armour is something that really appeals to a wide variety of people for a range of reasons. Much like a superhero mask that completely hides the identity of the wearer (Spider-Man for example) the helmet allows people to project their own ideas onto the figure in a way that they can’t with the face of the man himself.
The next piece was a little bit unusual. Graham Bray’s Edward is a leatherwork patch made of cow hide tanned with vegetable oil and trimmed with two-tone dyed kangaroo leather lacing. This leatherwork patch displays an excellent grasp of a rarely seen skill in the modern day that resembles very closely the art of etching that was used to create images for newspapers in Ned Kelly’s day. This kind of “old world” crafting skill is perfectly suited to portraying such iconic historical images.
Art can take on many forms and one of the most contemporary forms of artistic expression is street art. Street art takes on many styles but is bound by one common goal – individualised and free-form expression. Some street art is hyper-realistic while other street art can be very abstract. Emerging artist James McLean’s Ned Kelly Street Art is very stylised and whimsical and is complimented by his incorporating Nolan-esque imagery in Oz Day, which portrays a collection of Australians on a beach in a very modern abstract way with cubist overtones. Sidney Nolan’s almost monolithic portrayal of Ned Kelly in his paintings has helped create the visual shorthand for Ned Kelly and bushrangers in general ever since and it can be readily observed how much this has influenced artists from various backgrounds and artistic persuasions.
Photography is a medium often overlooked as an art form, yet the advent of digital photography has enabled people to not only create stunning images as an amateur but also comes with access to a whole range of tools that can enable artists to add whimsicality to their work. Erin Hutchinson’s photograph of Ned Kelly’s death mask perfectly encapsulates this by adding a comical filter to the image. With Ned surrounded by stars and dolled up in make-up and fake lashes it is at once absurd yet strangely apt as many Kelly enthusiasts approach Ned Kelly as this highly glamourised figure shrouded in this veneer of celebrity or stardom. By showing this in a humorous way subtly reminds us that a lot of our perception of Ned is just, in essence, a filter of glamour.
As we’ve seen, no other bushranger captures the imagination like Ned Kelly in his armour at Glenrowan. For many, this is where they were introduced to bushrangers and started a long time interest or even obsession. The cylindrical helmet with singular eyeslit was such an obvious symbol that it inspired artists like Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker to use it as a motif in their paintings. Robert Weston portrays Ned having succumbed to his wounds and resting against a log like a worn out boxer resting on the ropes of the ring – an apt simile for such a legendary battle.
The most prolific set of entries was from Mark Perry, a familiar face in the Ned Kelly community. They demonstrate a passion for the Kelly story and all of the assorted paraphernalia that connects to it.
Somehow these images capture a real sense of what it feels like to ramble through Kelly Country and encounter the bizarre and kitsch merchandise and the various places that will slap a Ned helmet on anything to tie it in to the history.
The cartoon depiction of the Kelly gang performing a concert is whimsical and amusing. To see the gang juxtaposed as figures of mirth and entertainment despite carrying weapons and ammunition really speaks to the way that the story has been reframed in the popular consciousness.
One thing that really defines the Kelly story is the sheer number of players in the saga. A collage of these faces would surely be a daunting task, yet here we have a very unique collection of people from both sides of the law illustrating the complexity of the Kelly saga while also demonstrating the very reason that the folklore needs to be challenged – it affects so many people directly and indirectly.
This untitled piece by Mark Perry is like a window into the mind of a Kelly buff. The iconography and the country the story played out in is all there, mixed together in a gumbo of legend and life. The detailed buildings, the maps and road signs connecting all of the imagery together, punctuated with that all too familiar helmet.
But now it’s time to select the winning piece…
The decision on a winner came down to audience reaction and Mark Perry’s “Ned Kelly at the Movies” got the most enthusiastic response out of the entries. It creates a sense of nostalgia for a variety of eras by incorporating imagery from the cinematic legacy of Kelly films and stage productions. Mick Jagger and John Jarratt are depicted in among retro poster designs and promos. This image was the most liked on social media, clearly striking a nerve with the audience who no doubt got that lovely rush of nostalgia.
Congratulations to Mark Perry, you will be receiving a copy of Bushrangers: Australia’s Greatest Self-Made Heroes by Evan McHugh. And a massive thank you to everyone that contributed to Fan Art February and made it possible, it has been an absolute thrill seeing what you have come up with and hopefully it’ll just get bigger and better from here. All going well there will be another Fan Art February in 2019 which should give you plenty of time to get your creative juices flowing.