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John Citizen

John Citizen ‘Interior (Two Paintings)’ 2004

John Citizen | Australia 1955-2014 | Interior (Two Paintings) 10 Nov. 2004 2004 | Synthetic polymer paint on linen | 152 x 304cm | The James C Sourris, AM, Collection. Gift of James C Sourris through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2008. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Interior (Two Paintings) 10 Nov. 2004 2004

John Citizen is the artistic alter ego of Gordon Bennett, who has exhibited many works under this name since 1995. Interior (Two Paintings) 10 Nov. 2004 is a majestic and coolly satirical painting that sits firmly within the post-Pop Art tradition. John Citizen is the Australian ‘everyman’, a generic protagonist found on numerous official documents, websites and forms, so Bennett compels him to address general social and cultural issues, rather than the complex personal histories of Indigenous Australian people, as many of his other works do.

John Citizen’s works are studiedly objective, canvassing glamorous images from design magazines and mail order catalogues. This is apparent in the spacious interior here. The sitting room is drawn in the elegant style favoured by contemporary illustrators, devoid of the usual clutter of family life, the better to allow prospective purchasers to enter it in their imagination. The work gives a qualified and sceptical account of abstract painting: two monochrome paintings dominate the room, and are matched by pairs of all the other elements, including the two panels on which the work is painted.

Here, John Citizen is making the point that much contemporary art is as superficial as the ambitions of collectors who amass it, deployed for effect as a lifestyle accessory. In this critique of consumerism, John Citizen speaks to all Australians. As a kind of meta-criticism, he might also be including his own work in this sharp denunciation.