When compared to every other capital city in Australia, Darwin is something of an anomaly. It’s hotter, wetter, smaller, and further away, and its major newspaper (the NT Times) is infinitely more likely to feature a crocodile on the front page than anything else. It is famously closer to Jakarta and Singapore than to Sydney – although to be fair, it’s not particularly close to them, either.
It’s no surprise that these points of difference are reflected – featured, even – in the city’s art scene.
Darwin-based Franck Gohier’s retrospective at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, A Thousand Miles from Everywhere, presents the past two decades of his practice. Gohier’s approach echoes the pop art greats, but his subject matter places him unmistakably in the Territory: classic comics, movie posters, found objects and board games are appropriated and relocated – now with more crocs, bikinis, feral cats (on a bullet-riddled sign), Cyclone Tracy, Uluru, and other iconic signifiers of the Territory. Usually punctuated with biting one-liners, even the bright, block colours of Gohier’s screenprinting process suggest the piercing sunlight of the Top End.
Across Gohier’s oeuvre, the isolation and aesthetics of Darwin frequently underscore a scathing political commentary, highlighting screenprint’s history as a tool of protest and agitation. Figures such as Gina Rinehart, Tony Abbott and Pauline Hanson are all cut out and pinioned within specific moments of social history. Other references, for example to the eponymous comic hero The Phantom, unglamorously recast as The Phillip, are more layered. The Phillip series examines Darwin’s colonial narrative through the appropriated character.
Irreverent and deeply connected to Northern Australia, Gohier’s work explores what it means to live in this place, a thousand miles from everywhere.
Franck Gohier: A Thousand Miles From Everywhere opens at the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory on 3 February.
Preview by Anna Dunnill