RSA Friends Room Exhibition
“In 2005, George Donald travelled from Vietnam to Australia, across the South Pacific, to Tahiti and Easter Island. From 1960’s newsreel images of the battered Mekong Delta, through the postcards of Gaugin’s couth seas and travelogue essays about Easter Island’s mesmerising Heads we think we know the fragile intensities of disappearing ‘ethnic’ cultures.
George Donald’s imaginative re-examination of these realities is neither ‘Gaugin revisited’, nor is it National Geographic reportage but the elusive goal of the serious traveller, going beyond the ‘exotic picturesque’ to an essence in which viewers see not ‘difference’, but sameness, humanity’s common experience.
Through rich, vaporous or velvety dark carefully modulated surfaces tumble figures that are our own reflections. Metaphorically and literally naked, dancing, crouching springing they are agents in our dream-dramas, ancestor-cousins who articulate our desires and aspirations. What is presented is not distant spectacle, but accessible experience.
Anthropologically-derived artefacts of imaginary tribes, the compelling Heads reveal a different visual world, the product of Donald’s encounter with the people of the Southern Cross. The Heads embody lives lived differently, a tribute from north to south, a visualisation of the artist’s imaginative senses that ‘I met these people. I learnt who they are’.”