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.]