Wild colonial boys, painting by Paul Ryan
Wild colonial boys, painting by Paul Ryan.
2012, oil on canvas (diptych), 100 x 100cm each. Geelong Gallery Collection. Acquired through the Geelong contemporary art prize (acquisitive prize), 2012.
Contact Geelong Gallery.Copyright
Reproduced courtesy the artist.
Wild colonial boys addresses aspects of Australia’s colonial history, notably the impact of European settlement on Indigenous lands and people. The dual portraits of half-length figures clad in 18th century uniforms shows one of them set against an Australian landscape with a stand of native pines, while the other figure is depicted against an otherwise blank canvas. Executed in the artist’s familiar style of thick impasto and expressive brushstrokes, the two subjects of Ryan’s composition gaze intently at the viewer with a mix of bravado and awkwardness.
As the artist states, "We see them dressed in their fine uniforms, looking self-satisfied. The truth is they are totally unprepared for the harsh realities of survival in this strange and unyielding new land. Maybe they should be mild colonial boys. They look like they spend more time in front of a mirror than out taming the jungle."