A bush burial, painting by Juan Davila
A bush burial, painting by Juan Davila.
2000, oil on canvas, 200 x 260cm. Geelong Gallery Collection. Gift of the Helen Mcpherson Smith Trust and the Geelong Gallery Foundation, 2001.
Contact Geelong Gallery.Copyright
Juan Davila, courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art.
The title of Davila’s work (and the freshly dug grave glimpsed in the middle distance) derives from Frederick McCubbin’s iconic 1890 painting A bush burial, acquired by the Geelong Gallery in 1900. Davila’s version is part of his Love’s Progress series of large-scale canvases that chronicle episodes in the imagined life of the artist’s alter ego Juanita Laguna, the dishevelled, transgender figure whose reflection we see in the broken mirror.
With its assorted pictorial allusions and text, Davila’s A bush burial acknowledges the range of political, cultural, sexual, psychological and artistic issues that inform much of the artist’s practice. Given Davila’s own relocation to Australia in response to an oppressive regime in his native Chile, the issue of migration and the plight of the refugee is a familiar focus for his often confronting narratives. Here, for example, the figure of Juanita has arrived at the gateway to a new and promised land only to have his/her luggage torn open, brutally examined and held to scorn, or so it appears, by a burly, bare-chested customs official wearing a slouch-hat and accompanied by a savage dog.