Richard Bell1953 - Omega (Bell's Theorem) 2013
- acrylic on linen
Omega is the last in the series of Bell's Theorems, the first of which won the 2003 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. That work, which infamously declared 'Aboriginal Art: it's a White Thing', arguably set off a debate about power structures in indigenous art that continues to resonate today.
Since then Bell has made a Theorem painting to mark each major development in his thinking. For example, the second Theorem declared: 'Australian Art: it's an Aboriginal Thing' largely in reference to the reality that overseas, the best known art from Australia is Aboriginal art. Other works in the series that came after include: Australian Art Does Not Exist, Western Art Does Not Exist, I Am Not a Noble Savage, and last of all: In the End There Will Be Painting (Omega).
This particular work has multiple meanings but could be read ostensibly as an affirmation of painting in the technological era. The work typically refers to a combination of Western Desert painting, Abstract Expressionism and the high key colour combinations of advertising.
With the text Bell was recalling a comment by Albert Einstein that he didn't know how World War Three would be fought, but World War Four would be fought with sticks and stones. Einstein's idea entails an eventual return to 'the primitive' due to self-destruction, a situation in which painting (rather than, say, video) would be the most viable art form.
To that extent the statement in Omega is a kind of prophecy, but also (and perhaps most importantly) an affirmation of the so-called 'primitive' and the endurance of painting through history and across cultures.
Source: Milani Gallery 2014
© Richard Bell