Boyd Community Hub and Craft present artist Sharon West.
In Chocolate Box, West has imagined an inverted Australian colonial landscape where the Aboriginal people have changed places with the British colonists. The Aboriginal people have now become the dominant culture reflecting the mannerisms and customs of the Enlightenment and attired in the fancy fashions of the Rococo and Georgian period. The British colonisers, in turn, have taken on the role of the colonised native inhabitants. West believes this concept strongly relates to the notion of ‘Changing Places’, as it asks the viewer to contemplate the idea ofa ’what-if ‘ and alternate Australian history.
The title Chocolate Box alludes to the popular genre of art featured on chocolate boxes and tins. These images were selected for their highly scenic and decorative ‘Fetes-Galante’ pastoral imagery, and included artists such as Jean-Honore Fragonard, Antoine Watteau, François Boucher and Thomas Gainsborough. West initially envisaged this idea after purchasing a vintage toffee tin featuring Gainsborough’s eponymous Blue Boy.
The dioramas feature Aboriginal figures dressed in the clothes of noble people engaged in the pleasures of the noble classes-dancing, eating and reading. West has incorporated some humorous and whimsical elements such as an artist drawing a Rhinoceros, which was an animal sensation of the Rococo. The figures have been built up around ceramic figurines sourced from op shops, which supports my observance of a sustainable art practice through upcycled materials. West has then embellished these with bold colours, emu feathers, lace and gold leaf, placing them on wooden supports as to suggest an ‘old fashioned’ museum diorama.
Overall, these works represent an Aboriginal pastoral Idyll that never occurred, though historians have romanticised the idea of a ‘noble savage’, it was only within a Western construct and never indicative of Australian Aboriginal culture.