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Dennis Golding is a Kamilaroi artist whose practice explores empowering representations of identity and race.
Spending his childhood growing up in Redfern, Dennis’ interest in art started at a young age, watching his mother and Aunties painting in the backyard.
“One of the things that got me interested in art was seeing my mother drawing these sketches of native animals. Kangaroos and turtles and other animals. And I asked her ‘Why are you painting these animals?’ and she said it’s because she’s connected to them.”
“I realised then that connection was important. Connection puts things into perspective and helps one understand their culture and identity.”
This experience stayed with Dennis. As he grew and continued to develop his art practice, it was three keywords that would eventually form the foundation of and connect him to his work: community, identity and culture.
As a queer First Nations artist, Dennis is a strong believer that the sharing of stories and self-expression are pathways to acceptance in the wider community.
“I’m very proud as an artist to express my sexuality and my cultural identity in my work.
I think it’s important to express yourself through art practice as it’s a strong way of healing, it’s a strong way of communicating to other people, to really have people understand where you come from, your lived experience and histories."
“Having people really engage with you to talk about identity, to talk about culture and community, both LGBTQI+ and First Nations, helps build understanding and form connections.”
Dennis will often explore both these sides of his identity in his work, drawing parallels to the hardships faced by First Nations people and the LGBTQI+ community.
“I feel that many people in both the LGBTQI+ and First Nations communities have felt a struggle to fit in with the wider community in Australia at some point. There’s this experience of growing up where our people have struggled to be accepted by their communities and by society. There’s a shared experience of discrimination.”
“Australia has a lot to learn, and a lot of growth needs to happen. We should be celebrating our diverse communities and accepting our indigenous Australians and LGBTQI+ communities, their stories and the value they bring to our society."
Driven from childhood memories and interests in superhero comic books Dennis’ work often references science-fictional narratives through the visual motif of the cape. His work aims to decolonise the histories and perceptions people have of Aboriginal identity.
“My work focuses on re-representing a stronger identity to empower our contemporary experience and culture as Aboriginal people.”
“Recognising the true stories of our country is important in my practice because it provides a platform for me to reach a wider audience.”
“In my work, I incorporate different symbols from contemporary life, pop culture and Aboriginal cultural motifs to display on colourful capes. The colour of the caps form a rainbow which looks at sexuality. In contrasting them together it starts a conversation about what we identify as.”
In November 2020, Dennis became the first Indigenous artist to win the NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship. Each year the coveted Fellowship awards $30,000 to an NSW-based emerging artist to participate in a self-directed program of professional development.
“Winning the award was such a proud moment because it’s not just an achievement for myself but for the broader Indigenous community. It’s visibility for our histories and stories.’
“Visibility in art practice is such an important thing because it’s something that has been underrepresented in the past and it’s something that creates a greater path forward for future emerging art practitioners.”
“To me, Mardi Gras means strength and resilience. It’s something everyone can be a part of. It’s a place where we can talk about diversity, culture and identity in many different ways.”
“And it’s an opportunity for people outside of our communities to be part of and have these conversations with.”
“This year’s Mardi Gras theme is RISE. I rise for the future of my First Nations people and for First Nations artists.
It’s important to rise, because you’re leaving something behind and moving into a new future.”