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BENNETT, Gordon; The Coming of the Light

Gordon Bennett, one of Australia’s most respected artists, was 11 before he learned of his Aboriginal heritage and 12 before his mother was considered a citizen of Australia. When Bennett entered the workforce, personal turmoil started to build as he began to experience and comprehend the prevalence of racist beliefs. The Coming of the Light 1987 is among Bennett’s most haunting early attempts to deal with his alienation, denigration and discrimination as a legacy of colonialism through symbolism.

The title of Bennett’s work references New Zealand painter Colin McCahon’s ‘Elias’ series, which explore ideas of salvation and sacrifice in the Christian tradition. Bennett’s vision is very different, however; he recasts the Christian concept of ‘the coming of the light’ as the driving out of Indigenous beliefs, leaving only a cold and unforgiving modernity. Bennett’s title is also an ironic play on the Torres Strait Islander portrayal of the arrival of missionaries, who brought their ‘light’ of Enlightenment to the region.