Christian Thompson creates art expressive of a continuing relationship to his people, country and culture. Subtle and sometimes more explicit references to the land and heritage of his community, the Bidjara people of the Kunja Nation from south-west Queensland, present themselves in the artist’s multidisciplinary practice.
His photographic series Gates of Tambo 2004 refers in its title to two bottle trees (‘the gates of Tambo’), planted by Thompson’s great-uncle outside the town of Tambo, north-west of Brisbane. Thompson’s photographs afford viewers insight in ways that a young Indigenous Australian artist positions and deﬁnes himself within the world, and the various art worlds, in the early twenty-ﬁrst century. Through impersonations of, variously, Indigenous artists Rusty Peters, Tracey Moffatt and the Woman from Peppimenarti, plus Andy Warhol, Thompson deconstructs the amalgam making up his identity.
In this work the artist underlines that he sees himself as both the young man behind a laptop in Melbourne, with a keen interest in 1980s fashion and pop culture, and the Aboriginal artist in remote Australia documenting his country and traditions. The ease with which Thompson transforms into the other Indigenous practitioners challenges us to question the distinction made between Indigenous peoples living in different parts of Australia. The Gates of Tambo photographs also initiate an intergenerational dialogue between Thompson and the individuals whose characters he assumes. Exploring the ways in which his art relates to works made by well-established practitioners such as Peters and Moffatt, this younger artist pays homage to those who inspire him and also ﬁrmly situates his practice within recent Indigenous art histories. At the same time the image of Andy Warhol, celebrated international symbol of pop art, forms the key to Thompson’s desire for himself and other Aboriginal artists to be part of global discourses on art making.
Whilst exploring his Indigenous heritage, Thompson’s work engages with topics that affect and move both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, transcending cultural boundaries.
Marianne Riphagen, ‘Christian Thompson’, in Culture Warriors: National Indigenous Art Triennial, exhibition catalogue, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2007, p.164.