Art Essays

Christopher Pease – Gallery Smith, Melbourne

Published November 17, 2018
Christopher Pease, 'Reaper' (2017)

Artist: Christopher Pease

Lives: Dunsborough, Western Australia


Represented by: Gallerysmith, North Melbourne, (no Sydney representation)

His thing.  Oil paintings making critical re-appropriations of early colonial landscapes.

Our take.Christopher Pease is an artist of Mingang/Nyoongar descent whose work has been exhibited and collected by most of Australia’s leading art museums. Although he identifies as indigenous, Pease uses postmodernist techniques such as the appropriation of images to reflect on colonial history and race relations in his native Western Australia.

In Minang Boodja, his exhibition at Gallerysmith, Pease draws on a wellknown series of coloured prints, Panoramic View of King George’s Sound, Part of the Colony of Swan River (1834), made after drawings by Lieutenant Robert Dale. These images depict a peaceful land in which the small figures of the local tribesmen add a touch of exotica. Yet Dale was also the man who carried to London the severed head of Yagan, after the rebellious Nyoongar leader had been shot by the colonists.

In six large oil paintings Pease reworks Dale’s Panorama, putting a morbid complexion on these scenes. In Reaper, the skeletal figure of Death looks out across the land. In Souvenir, Yagan’s skull is superimposed on a view of rolling hills and rivers. The dominant colour is now a dull red, as if the picture were stained wth blood. The political message could hardly be more blunt, but in his painting technique Pease is a painstaking craftsman. These six canvases represent three years’ work.

Can I afford it?

The five largest pictures in this show are selling for $100,000 each, reflecting strong interest from buyers both at home and abroad. This includes Reaper, (on 24 small boards), at 168cm by 294cm; Bidi Karta Werda (Path Across)Hunting Party 2 and Handshake at 170cm by 290cm; and Target 3, at 155cm by 290cm. The least expensive piece is Souvenir (200cm by 165cm), priced at $50,000. These are big numbers by Australian standards, but no deterrent to buyers. Pease’s record price to date is $180,000, for a work sold to the Perth Convention Centre.

Where can I have a squiz?

Gallerysmith, 170-174 Abbotsford Street, North Melbourne, until 8 December, 2018,


Published in The Good Weekend, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 November, 2018