By Elisha Donath
A little more bite and a little less bark, Dianne Jones, 2008 © Niagara Galleries
Dianne Jones is an Aboriginal photo-media artist. Her artworks comment on Indigenous identity and cultural history.
Jones was born in Northolm, Western Australia in 1966.Her family is part of the Nyoongar community. Jones’s father was a Christian preacher, and her mother is an artist.
Jones developed an interest in photography and digital media at university. She studied art foundation, jewellery design, and Aboriginal orientation. In 2001 she graduated from Edith Cowan University, Western Australia, with a Bachelor of Visual Arts
Her artworks have been included in many group exhibitions since 2001, and are represented in the collections of art institutions in Australia and overseas.
The Influence of Gordon Bennett
Dianne Jones’s art practice was inspired by the confronting art of Gordon Bennett. She first saw Gordon Bennett’s 1989, Valley of the Ghost Gums at the Art Gallery of Western Australia when she was nineteen years of age.
Jones’ believes that:
“At the time it worked perfectly for me because I thought I can understand this. I can make my own interpretations on this and go away with that and do something else”. Dianne Jones, 2008.
Dianne Jones is interested in famous Australian images that fail to depict Aboriginal Australians. Her artworks question who constructs symbols of culture, and why they have been made in this way. Her dream is to hijack every iconic image and place an Aboriginal face within the artwork.
She uses postmodern tools to construct her artworks:
- The artist appropriates (borrows) famous Australian artworks, which do not depict Aboriginal Australians.
- Using Photoshop she replaces the non Indigenous characters of the original artwork, with Aboriginal characters (who are often family members).
- Her artworks are often humorous
- The artist explores social and political events through her art.
Themes and Artworks
Dianne Jones’ artworks can be examined through three themes:
1. Iconic Australian images that do not represent Aboriginal Australians.
Shearing the rams, Dianne Jones, 2001 © Niagara Galleries
The artist comments on Tom Roberts and other Heidelberg artists who produced a visual history that failed to include Aboriginal Australians.
Jones appropriated Tom Robert’s iconic 1888 -1890 Shearing the Rams, with some adjustments. She replaced the three central shearers with images of her father, brother and nephew. By including her family in the image, she allows the artwork to be read from an Aboriginal context. Shearing the Rams also references Jones family’s agricultural history in shearing and talks to the Australian pastoral industry.
2. The representation of Indigenous Australians as the ‘noble savage’ in art.
Dianne Jones believes that many iconic Australian artworks “represent Aboriginal people as the flora and fauna”. Without names or identities they are insignificantly faded into the background.
In Brenda’s Wedding Jones appropriates Eugene Von Guerard’s 1954 painting Barwon River, Geelong. She replaces the Indigenous character of the original artwork with a family photograph of her sister’s wedding. By making her family the main focus of the painting she has given them an identity that Indigenous people were not given in the original artwork.
Brenda’s Wedding, Dianne Jones, 2001 © Niagara Galleries
3. Mixed heritage and cultural identity
Jones addresses issues of mixed heritage and cultural identity in her 2005 series Jeulisa, John, Kristy and Murray. Her nieces and nephews pose as Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The artwork uses the uncertainty of Mona Lisa’s identity to answer questions of popular imagery, such as ‘Where do I belong?’ and ‘Who can I identify with?’
Jeulisa, Dianne Jones, 2005 © Niagara Galleries
John, Dianne Jones, 2005 © Niagara Galleries
Kristy, Dianne Jones, 2005 © Niagara Galleries
Murray, Dianne Jones, 2005 © Niagara Galleries
All images courtesy the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne.