Cover image of the review
Installation view of Heather Shimmen, The sun shining ultravioletly one day upon the protean sea, Latrobe Regional Gallery, Morwell. Photo: David Ashley Kerr. Heather Shimmen is represented by Australian Galleries, Collingwood, Melbourne.

The Sun Shining Ultravioletly One Day Upon the Protean Sea

5 Feb 2024
Latrobe Regional Gallery (LRG) 11 Nov - 11 Feb 2024

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, and James Gillray gave animals distinctive personalities and names that were capable of interventions or facilitating fateful or hilarious outcomes; Goya animated his etchings with owls, bats, and donkeys to great effect during the Spanish Inquisition. Empowering animals through myths, literature, poetry, nursery rhymes, and cartoons might seem a quaint way to transmogrify humanity’s morals and politics, but it is an effective way to pull out darker stories about historical events. In Heather Shimmen’s current exhibition at the Latrobe Regional Gallery, in the Gippsland township of Morwell, her large linocut prints and sculptural three-dimensional assemblages are populated with Australian indigenous creatures that entice us into fabulous realms, in which Shimmen weaves politics, environmentalism, racist tropes, and feminising tales, mostly of colonial-settler women adrift and alone in their new hostile territory. As Australia undergoes its own activist and rhetorical debates about sovereignty and the impact of European colonisation, more recently highlighted by the Voice referendum, the vandalism of public monuments of colonial figures, or the removal and relocation of Captain Cook’s Cottage from the Fitzroy Gardens, it may surprise some that Shimmen has been critiquing Australia’s cultural identity from a white female perspective in her art for well over two decades.

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