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Richard Bell


Richard Bell | Australia b.1953 | Bell's Theorem (Trikky Dikky and friends) 2005 | Synthetic polymer paint on canvas | Five panels: 240 x 96cm (each); 240 x 480cm (overall) | The James C Sourris, AM, Collection. Gift of James C Sourris through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2007. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Bell's Theorem (Trikky Dikky and friends) 2005

Richard Bell’s art is uncompromising, provoking a response from the viewer, through plainly and boldly presenting his views on current issues in Aboriginal and Australian politics and art.

Here Bell has created a companion piece to his 2003 TELSTRA NATSIAA winning piece, ‘Scientia e metaphysica (Bell’s Theorem)’, which boldly stated that ‘Aboriginal art is a white thing’. This strong statement set off much needed critical debate and dialogue about the Indigenous art industry. In that first work, Bell introduced his argument that the Aboriginal art industry was driven by a white market and institutions, resulting in Aboriginal art being tailored to these contemporary interests.

‘Bell’s Theorem (Trikky Dikky and friends)’ explores a different but interdependent argument, that ‘Australian art is an Aboriginal thing’. By asserting this in the left hand panel, Bell resumes his role as provocateur and puts forward the argument that many of Australia’s most respected artists gained fame through the appropriation of Aboriginal art and the exploitation of Aboriginal artists. On the right hand panel Bell has named his ‘perpetrators’.

In the central panels, a Roy Lichtenstein-style cartoon strip has been appropriated to comment on these well-off artists who have made a career from ‘ripping-off’ other forms of art. Bell also muses over the appropriation of other forms of art from other peoples, with one of his female characters, speaking as the voice of reason, asserting that ‘Africans invented cubism’.