Just Not Australian

Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery is pleased to present Just Not Australian, an exhibition of work by Australian artists at the forefront of national debate and practice.

EXHIBITION: Saturday 2 July – 4 September 2022
SPECIAL EVENT: Sunday 31 July 1pm book via Eventbrite
Welcome to Country by Nukunu Elder Uncle Lindsay Thomas
Guest speaker Nici Cumpston OAM, Artistic Director TARNANTHI and Art Gallery of South Australia’s Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art.

Just Not Australian brings together 20 artists across generations and diverse cultural backgrounds to deal broadly with the origins and implications of contemporary Australian nationhood. Showcasing the common sensibilities of satire, larrikinism and resistance so as to present a broad exploration of race, place and belonging, Just Not Australian interrogates what it means to be Australian at this challenging point in time.

Just Not Australian engages with the moral and ethical undertones of the loaded rejoinder ‘un- Australian’ – a pejorative now embedded in our national vocabulary that continues to be used to further political agendas and to spread nationalistic ideals of what it means to be Australian. Far from a simple comparison, a consideration of what’s not Australian ultimately leads to questions of what is, and the artists in Just Not Australian consider this in detail.

Artists include Abdul Abdullah, Hoda Afshar, Tony Albert, Cigdem Aydemir, Liam Benson, Eric Bridgeman, Jon Campbell, Karla Dickens, Fiona Foley, Gordon Hookey, Richard Lewer, Archie Moore, Vincent Namatjira, Nell, Joan Ross, Tony Schwensen, Raquel Ormella, Ryan Presley, and artistic duo Soda Jerk.

A number of the works in the exhibition are united by their desire to take Australia’s ‘official’ history to task, making space for people and events that have been sidelined or omitted, in particular Soda Jerk’s film TERROR NULLIUS, described by the artists as ‘a political revenge fable that offers an unwriting of Australian national mythologies’.

Artists including Gordon Hookey, Cigdem Aydemir, Tony Albert, Vincent Namatjira and Joan Ross explore the politics of images, their construction and circulation, as well as their connection to legacies of racial and cultural misrepresentation. Karla Dickens, Fiona Foley, Hoda Afshar and Eric Bridgeman address historical and contemporary mistruths and injustices with creative invention and strength.

Raquel Ormella, Richard Lewer, Liam Benson and Ryan Presley utilise familiar nationalistic symbols or emblems such as flags, maps and currency notes to examine individual and collective relationships with the state, while Jon Campbell, Abdul Abdullah, Nell, Archie Moore and Tony Schwensen demonstrate the visual potency of language to reveal its use in cultural alienation, subjugation and likewise, liberation.

This exhibition begins its national tour from 2020 which marks the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s first voyage to Australia, a timely moment to interrogate Australia’s colonial history and the complexities of presenting and representing national identity.


Abdul Abdullah makes work that is primarily concerned with the experience of the ‘other’ in society. Through self-deprecating humour, his work in Just Not Australian references his own experiences as a self-described ‘outsider amongst outsiders’, navigating Australia’s contemporary multicultural context as a seventh-generation Australian Muslim.

Hoda Afshar was born in Tehran, Iran, and is currently based in Melbourne. Her work specifically considers the representation of gender, marginality and displacement in a world homogenised by a global economy and unsettled by mass migration. Based on the artist’s personal encounters as a migrant, the photographs in Just Not Australian critique nationalistic fantasies that enforce clichéd imaginings of what it means to be an Australian.

Tony Albert is a Girramay, Yidinji, and Kuku Yalanji man whose artistic practice draws on both personal and collective histories to explore ways in which optimism might be utilised to overcome adversity. His work in Just Not Australian continues a process of integrating re-worked ‘Aboriginalia’ to bring attention to the stereotypical representation, commodification and exoticisation of First Nations peoples.

Cigdem Aydemir is a Sydney-based artist working in installation, performance and video art. Strongly influenced by her identity as an Australian Muslim woman with Turkish heritage. Aydemir questions established relations of power, while producing work that is driven equally by research, play, criticism and humour

Liam Benson is a performance artist who documents his work through embroidery, photography, video and new media. Benson’s work deconstructs social perceptions of gender, race, culture, sexuality and identity. His works in Just Not
Australian utilise sequins and beads, which have been a crucial medium in the development of his artistic language.

Eric Bridgeman is based in Brisbane and Wahgi Valley, Jiwaka Province, Papua New Guinea. Bridgeman’s work discusses social and cultural issues often using the theatre of sport as a springboard. Recent visits to his homeland have allowed Bridgeman to explore the realm of ‘tribal warfare’ in the PNG Highlands, which mimics the drama, colour and trickery seen in its national sport, Rugby League

Jon Campbell was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and now is based in Victoria. With a focus on text-based works fused with abstracted and geometric elements, his art is an exploration of the visual potential of words through the use of vernacular language and popular culture.

Karla Dickens is a Wiradjuri painter and sculptor who lives in Lismore, NSW. Her work is inspired by personal experiences, with much of her practice exploring issues of gender politics, sexuality, motherhood and marginalisation. Dickens is known for her often provocative reflections on Australian culture, past and present and her repurposing of items and materials to create new meanings.

Fiona Foley is a Badtjala artist from Maryborough, Queensland. She has exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally since the mid-1980s and is a founding member of Sydney’s Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-Operative. Her practice explores colonial race relations, sexuality and the experiences of Queensland’s Aboriginal population at the turn of the 20th century by bringing hidden histories to light.

Gordon Hookey is a descendent of the Waanyi people, his figurative paintings layer visual puns and linguistic wit to occupy a space where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultures converge, in a style that is urgently political and often darkly humorous.

Richard Lewer was born in New Zealand but has lived in Australia for the past 20 years, creating work reflecting his experience of establishing a life in a new country and the ever-present shadow of the past in the present. More broadly, the work references Australia’s ongoing wrestling with its own complex history, calling into question the capacity of this nation for self-knowing.

Archie Moore is a Kamilaroi artist whose practice is underpinned by the key signifiers of language, skin, smell, flags and the home. His exploration of cultural identity, racism, transgenerational memory and intercultural (mis)understanding holds a sense of uncertainty that pertains to the ongoing negotiation of his Aboriginal heritage

Vincent Namatjira is a Western Arrernte man from Ntaria living in Indulkana, APY Lands, South Australia. Bold, painterly and conceptually rich, his imagery calls on Australia’s colonial history, with recurring references to Captain Cook, the British Royals, political leaders and contemporary life.

Nell makes work that embodies an ongoing interest in contemporary manifestations of spiritual traditions; life, death and rebirth; the history and magic of materials; and rock ‘n’ roll’s transcendental potential. Growing up in the regional town of Maitland where music and religion were integral to her childhood, Nell’s works in Just Not Australian explore the nexus between these seemingly disparate arenas; their common iconography, symbolism and fervour.

Raquel Ormella works with textiles, drawing and sewing to mine contemporary national identity, environmentalism and human relations with the natural world. Her practice encompasses material forms often associated with social and political activism, such as banners, flags, video, pamphlets and zines. She is interested in the collision of art and activism and the complex relationship between humans and the natural environment.

Ryan Presley has Marri Ngarr and Scandinavian heritage. He holds a PhD from Queensland College of Art and is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Griffith University. His Blood Money series that features in Just Not Australian replaces prominent figures from Australia’s colonial history on the national currency with leaders, social advocates, warriors and writers from Aboriginal history.

Joan Ross uses wit, punchy humour and the absurd to reexamine Australia’s colonial past. Her collaged animations show Indigenous people and animals emerging from well-known eighteenth-century landscapes, and then blending back into them without a trace. In contrast, cut-outs of newly arrived settlers shuffle awkwardly, characterised by patches of harsh fluorescent yellow – a metaphor for colonisation.

Tony Schwensen was born in Sydney but is currently based in Jamaica Plain, USA. His recurring themes of Australian nationalism and its various manifestations are often expressed with pointed satire. For Just Not Australian, his work presents a clear delineation of boundaries and borders within the gallery context to humorously recall airports, roadblocks and crowd-control.

Soda Jerk formed in Sydney in 2002 and are currently based in New York. Soda Jerk is a two-person art collective interested in the politics of images and ways of dismantling their inherent hierarchies. Predominantly working with video, their piece in Just Not Australian is an Ian Potter Moving Image Commission for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne. A hybrid mashup of Australian film texts, this cinema-length work, titled TERROR NULLIUS, offers an unwriting of Australian national mythologies


Just Not Australian was curated by Artspace Sydney and developed in partnership with Sydney Festival and Museums & Galleries of NSW. The exhibition was first presented at Artspace as part of the Sydney festival 2019 and is touring nationally with Museums & Galleries of NSW from 2020 to 2022.

Just Not Australian was curated by Artspace and developed in partnership with Sydney Festival and Museums & Galleries of NSW. The exhibition is touring nationally with Museums & Galleries of NSW. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Header Image 1: Hoda Afshar, Dog’s Breakfast, 2011, archival inkjet print, 61 x 88.9 cm. Courtesy the artist.