Cover image of the review

Paradise Lost: Thomas Griffiths Wainewright / Herself

7 Oct 2021
11 Jun - 3 Oct 2021

What I notice first and foremost on arriving at the entrance to the exhibition is the large title wall. A “fashionable dandy in 1820s London”, Thomas Griffiths Wainewright, is the the focus of a monographic show at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) on the nipaluna (Hobart) waterfront. His name appears in black text on an off-yellow background; the exhibition title proper, Paradise Lost, in large off-yellow text on a black background, with supporting funders below. I’m unsure what job a dandy does, but the allure of romanticising the long-dead whose work lies in a state art museum’s collection must be too great. I enter the “wrong” direction first, on the right of the entry text, and see the rusted, aged remnants of a door displayed on the “final” wall of the exhibition.

“Also an artist, collector, critic and essayist”, Wainewright exhibited at those deeply conservative centres of imperial aesthetic value and candour, the Royal Academy and the collectors’ society, the British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Relying, from the very opening wall texts, on framing the value of this “adopted son” of Tasmania through his engagement with these white institutions in the imperial home turf has got to be one of the most widely used strategies of white Australian art historians and curators. This is evidence of seeking validation and visibility precisely where Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) artists have (finally) taken more of centre stage.

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