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Decentring Australian Art: Looking Past the Mainstream is an Australian Research Council-funded project (2018—) which seeks to document, investigate and understand a broad swathe of Australian visual practice beyond the fixed canons of art history. The project aims to open public awareness to the work of artists who have experienced marginalisation within the art world and within Australian society at large. This includes work by artists with experience of disability or mental health issues; artists with a history of incarceration; artists from refugee and recent migrant backgrounds; and untrained artists who commenced artmaking following a significant life event.

The term ‘Decentring’ in the project’s title signifies our challenge to existing histories of Australian art. We conceptualise the existing canon of art in Australia – which has failed to adequately take account of non-mainstream artists and their work – as a centred, one-dimensional narrative which needs to replaced by a more multiple understanding of the diversity of artistic practice in this country.  The outcomes of the project will include several books and journal articles, as well as website and a proposed art exhibition.

[Image: Anthony Mannix, Page from Journal of a Madman No. 7, 1989. Photo: Dr Gareth Jenkins.]

Aims of the Project

We aim to:

  • produce an understanding of non-mainstream artists, their work, and the socio-historical context in which they make their art
  • develop an art history examining the connections between marginalised and mainstream art practices, and the extent to which non-mainstream artists’ work can and should be acknowledged within a mainstream art historical context
  • generate a deeper understanding of mainstream art in this country and paint a richer, more complex picture of the history of Australian artistic culture

[Image: Michael Camakaris, Pre, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 168 x 153 cm. Image courtesy of Arts Project Australia.]

Publications

This page shows publications produced since the commencement of the research project in 2018 and related publications by members of the research team that appeared prior to the project.

[Image: Mark Smith, Welcome, 2018, calico, cotton thread and stuffing, 110 x 55 x 34 cm. Monash University Museum of Art Collection. Image courtesy of Arts Project Australia.]

Journal Articles

McQuilten, G; Spiers, A, ‘Art is different: Material practice, learning and co-making at The Social Studio’, Journal of Arts & Communities, vol. 10, No1 & 2, 2020.

White, A; Parlane, A; McQuilten, G; Green, C, ‘Outsider Art in Australia: Artists’ Voices Versus Art-world Mythologies’, Art & Australia , vol. 56 Issue 1, p41-48, 2019.

Parlane, A ‘FEM-aFFINITY at Arts Project Australia’, Memo Review 20 July 2019.

McQuilten, G, ‘The political possibilities of art and fashion based social enterprise’, Continuum, vol. 31, no 1, 2017.

Parlane, A, ‘Stuart Ringholt: Works on Paper at Neon Parc,’ Memo Review, 25 February 2017.

McQuilten, G, ‘Self-Made: Arts Project Australia,’ Assemble Papers, August 10, 2015.

White, A, ‘Graeme Doyle, The Cunningham Dax Collection and Surrealist Discourse’, Papers of Surrealism, vol. 6, 2007.

Books

McQuilten, G, The Social Studio: Fashion, Food, Art & Community, Melbourne: Melbourne Books, 2015.

Jones, K, Koh, E, Veis, N, White, A, Hurworth, R, Bell, J, Shrimpton, B, Fitzpatrick, A, Framing Marginalised Art, UoM Custom Book Centre, 2010.

Keynotes and Conference Papers

Green, C, ‘Art, Wellness and Creativity,’ The Intersection of Wellness and Creativity: Mapping the Field, keynote lecture, conference, University of Melbourne (Nov. 2019).

White, A, ‘Storytelling at The Dax Centre’, Transformational and Dangerous: The Ethics of Storytelling Workshop, Art-Based Social Enterprise and Marginalised Young People’s Transitions Project, RMIT University (Nov. 2019).

White, A, ‘Outsider Art: Historical Perspectives’, Outsider Art: Contemporary Considerations, part of the Talk the Talk lecture series, Art Curatorship Partnership Projects, University of Melbourne (April 2018).

White, A, ‘The Dax Centre: An Archive of Works by Artists with Experience of Mental Illness’, Heat & Dust: Artists, Archives, Art History, Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Power Institute, University of Sydney (November 2018).

Events

The project has hosted a number of events. These are listed here along with related events by members of the research team that took place prior to the project. Future project events will be advertised here.

OPENING AUSTRALIAN ART: LOOKING OUTWARDS FROM THE MAINSTREAM

Roundtable Discussion hosted at Buxton Contemporary Gallery, November 2019.

CONTEMPORARY OUTSIDER ART: THE GLOBAL CONTEXT

International Conference Hosted by Arts Project and the University of Melbourne, October 2014.

Contesting Boundaries: Outliers and American Vanguard Art

Public Lecture and Seminar by Professor Lynne Cooke, August 2019.

Exhibitions

Various Exhibitions Curated by CI Professor Charles Green Provided Inspiration for the Project.

OUTSIDERS OR OUTLIERS?: A CONVERSATION ABOUT OUTSIDER ART

Seminar by Professor James Elkins, June 2019.

Team

Anthony White

Associate Professor, Art History, University of Melbourne

Email me: a.white@unimelb.edu.au

Grace McQuilten

Senior Lecturer, Art History and Theory, RMIT University

Email me: grace.mcquilten@rmit.edu.au

Charles Green

Professor of Contemporary Art, Art History, University of Melbourne

Email me: c.green@unimelb.edu.au

Anna Parlane

Lecturer, Art History and Theory, Monash University

Email me: anna.parlane@monash.edu.au

Kali Myers

Research Associate, Art History University of Melbourne

Email me: kali.myers@unimelb.edu.au


Project Advisory Board

The following people act as members of the project advisory board. They have provided invaluable insight and advice at every stage of the project and the research team thanks them for their time and effort.

Peter Fay, Ian MacLean, Alison Bennett, Sim Luttin, Sue Roff, Safdar Ahmed, David Doyle, Lindy Judge, Wart Burg, Michael Camakaris, Nur Shkembi, Max Delany, Peter Waples-Crowe.

Want to work with us?