Cowboy Fable

2020 80 x 120 cms 

Apart from co-managing the Warlukurlangu Art Centre, my partner, Gloria Morales conducts a full-on animal rescue program, aimed mainly at Aboriginal Yuendemu Community’s ill and abandoned dogs. Describing her house of fifty plus dogs and two dozen cats and how she administers them deserves a book. Orphaned foals and calves occasionally are beneficiaries of her care. When she showed me a photo of the calf she’d reared, now a yearling wandering through the Art Centre’s gallery mewling for milk, an image flashed before me.


Undeterred by Picasso’s alleged advice to copy anyone but yourself, I considered the humour of quoting my 2003, This Is Not A Bull, in turn derived from Mark Tansey’s Innocent Eye Test, in turn, a play on the Paulus Potter. And in turn…and so on.


The realist mode enables me to conceal its absurdist underpinnings which by re-enacting the acting roles of the This is not a Bull painting places the men in a second degree reality, which is nonetheless anything but "real", but yet another layer of construction calling attention to its own constructedness, which is to say, the constructedness of the original and its reproduction. The cow in the gallery returns our gaze, turning from the reproduced art, unimpressed by the bull, just as young Kaston Hayes does in the earlier work. Arranye seems in conversation with the cow while Dominic Gorey and Jerome ‘Sugar’ Turner discuss art matters.


I toyed over an appropriate title before settling on A Cowboy Fable...the rescinding of the Indigenous from stockman / drover livelihood, which was also a fable to begin with, since this was an imposed post-contact form of labour that would never have occurred except through colonisation and the territorialisation of Indigenous land and ways of being. And the idea that "cowboy" culture was founded upon the myth of conquest, terra nullius, "imported" livestock.