Perth West Australian, 05.08.98
Galleries, by Robert Cook
History by Layers
SMALL Histories, Mike Green's exceptional show at
Perth Galleries in Sabiaco, engages with subjects that
are anything but small. Rather, Green deals with some of
the most important political issues of our time, the
history of colonisation of Australia and the South Pacific.
In the current conservative political climate that derides
any examination of such processes as "Back arm-band history"
by refusing to look at the dark side of Australian settlement,
this is an .important show.
However, don't be frightened off by political content. It is
never Green’s intent to bludgeon the viewer with party line dogma.
Instead, his superb body of watercolours, many of which are
massive for such a medium, deal with "the "shadow" 'of Australian
and South Pacific colonialism from a unique perspective.
Green focuses on the layers of this history, on its subtlety, complexity
and ambiguity. To add texture to this approach, he uses stories
from his own family history of migration an its participation within
aspects of the “colonial adventure”.
As such, his poignant images of bare coastlines, lined with footprints
and other traces of human presence, evoke the personal and
immediate sense of loss and absence underlying the experiences
of all the parties involved in colonialism.
Interestingly, therefore, without being cloying, the works highlight
the fragility of the coloniser's experience, of those who have found
themselves literally adrift on coasts far from their homes.
Other images look at some of the ways Europeans have exploited
notions "of the non-European as "savage" to justify their
In one of Green's pictures, though, this situation is turned around
as-a sole European is "driven off the shore on which he