Darren Siwes: Mum, I want to be Brown

January 3rd - February 9th 2008


Magnan Projects, in conjunction with Greenaway Art Gallery in Australia, is pleased to present the first New York exhibition of photographs by Darren Siwes.  The exhibition will be on view from January 3 – February 9, 2008.

Darren Siwes’ photographic subject – the figure in the landscape – creates a dialogue between his indigenous and contemporary Australian heritage.  In his work, Siwes portrays himself as voice of both a pre-existing and still-existing indigenous presence in an urban South Australian landscape.  His images are never accidental; they are painstakingly composed time exposures which are taken generally at night. These exposures vary in time between 30 seconds and 5 minutes, depending on the source of light. The ghosted effect happens because the artist is not in the photograph for the whole exposure. The images are not superimposed they remain as one complete image.

Siwes’ combines the careful selection of well known South Australian sites with his position as narrator to create a dynamic ghostly presence that demands attention on both a cultural and political level.  Dr. Christine Nicholls, an expert in Australian and Aboriginal studies explains, “The fact that the spectral figure of the artist wears a well tailored suit is significant in terms of the meaning and the deconstructive purpose of his photography because even a generation ago suits were often not affordable by many Australian Aboriginal people.  A plethora of early colonial photographs show Aboriginal men wearing cast-off, ill fitting, hand-me-down suits of well-heeled whites and Siwes’ photography intrinsically challenges that historical and optical legacy and the pervasive stereotyping arising from this practice. Siwes’ figure in the landscape has dignity and authority, and his choice of clothing confirms and enhances his claim on the social space.”  On a broader artistic level, whilst Siwes’ images present a deeply personal viewpoint, they also force us to redefine our traditional stereotypes yet simultaneously encourage us to explore our understanding of contemporary Australian culture.

Darren Siwes is an Australian of Aboriginal (Ngalkban, near Katherine in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory) and Dutch descent.  He obtained his Bachelor of Visual Arts (Hons) in 1996.  In this short period of time he has emerged as one of Australia’s premier indigenous photographers and is represented in private, corporate, State and National collections. He recently represented Australia at the Sydney Biennale in 2002 and at Arco in Madrid, Spain for the past two consecutive years. Darren Siwes is represented by Paul Greenaway of Greenaway Art Gallery in Adelaide, South Australia.