Gordon Bennett (1955-2014) was born in Monto, Queensland. In 1988 Bennett graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) from the Queensland College of Art, Brisbane. Bennett’s work examines historical and contemporary constructions of personal and cultural identity. He was one of Australia’s most prominent and critically engaged artists, whom over the course of his career addressed many issues, with particular focus on the role of language and systems of thought in the development and structuring of identity. He firmly rejected stereotypes relating to race and resisted categorisation as an Indigenous artist through his art and through his creation of his artistic alter ego, John Citizen.
Bennett’s 30 year career saw him achieve significant national and international recognition, with his work featured in biennials in Venice, Sydney, Kwangju, Shanghai, Havana, Prague, Berlin and Yinchuan. In 1999, his first major survey exhibition, curated by Liz Ann McGregor opened at Brisbane City Gallery, Brisbane and toured internationally to Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, United Kingdom; Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, United Kingdom; and Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, Norway. In 2007, the National Gallery of Victoria presented the first retrospective of Bennett’s practice. Curated by Kelly Gellatly, the exhibition comprised 87 significant works from major public and private collections, toured to the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane and the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth. In 2012, a number of works from his Home Decor (After M. Preston) series travelled to Kassel, Germany and were exhibited as part of dOCUMENTA (13), arguably one of the world’s most important exhibitions, curated by internationally renowned Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. 30 works from his Notepad Drawings, 1995, were exhibited as part of the 8th Berlin Biennale, 2014, curated by Juan Gaitán.
Throughout his career, Bennett was the recipient of major art awards within Australia including the John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize and the Sceggs Redlands/Westpac Art Award (both 1997). In 1991, he was awarded the prestigious Moët & Chandon Australian Art Fellowship, giving him the opportunity to work & travel throughout Europe for 1 year. It was an opportunity for Bennett to consolidate his emerging practice and explore new ideas. In 2014 he was posthumously awarded Griffith University Arts, Education and Law outstanding Alumnus of the Year and Queensland College of Art Outstanding Alumnus of the Year.
Bennett’s work has been collected extensively and is represented in most major public art collections in Australia, as well as a number of significant international collections. In 2016, the Tate Modern, London and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney jointly acquired two major works by Bennett as part of a new acquisition fund supported by Qantas. Bennett is published widely with a monograph of his work, published by Craftsman House, entitled, ‘The Art of Gordon Bennett’ and co-authored by Prof Ian McLean and Bennett.