Art is a Weapon
Opens 17 December 2012
Art is a Weapon takes you back to an Australia gripped by the Cold War. Amid propaganda for and against communism, artists turned to an image familiar to most Australians; the Southern Cross flag of the Eureka Stockade.
In 1854, miners and police clashed at Eureka over the issues of representation and the fees imposed on miners by the colonial government. A century later, to mark the anniversary, a portfolio of linocuts was produced by the Melbourne Popular Art Group, a collective of artists in Melbourne, some of whom were linked to the Communist Party of Australia. The CPA published the portfolio and used the Eureka story to tell their own narrative, about the struggle of workers against oppression.
The portfolio contains fourteen works from ten artists, including three from prominent Melbourne artist Noel Counihan. Counihan was a Social Realist who was heavily involved in the Communist Party, and was well-known in the Melbourne art community. The works reflect both the Eureka rebellion itself and, more broadly, the themes of workers’ rights and struggles against the established authorities.
Art is a Weapon explores how the Eureka story, legend and iconography have been used by groups and causes of all political flavours to spread their message. Alongside the portfolio of works, other objects and artworks using the Southern Cross motif show how the idea of Eureka has been adopted by groups as diverse as young communists and motorcycle clubs.