Ideas of Barak


 Ideas of Barak, Drawn by Vernon Ah Kee, black charcoal on primed acrylic, stretched canvas, in Brisbane, 2011. Contemporary Portrait, overall size 1800mm H x 2400mm W. Currently on display at NGV, Federation Square.


Currently showing at the Ian Potter Centre, at the NGV, Federation Square is an historical indigenous art exhibition. On display are varying forms of indigenous art from the early nineteenth century until the present time.  Titled ‘Moving Backwards into the Future’ the collection’s narrative expresses the combination of past, present and future without the relevance of time.  Upon entering the exhibition, a significant artwork hangs solely on a large white wall; the piece captures the essence of Aboriginal spiritual presence.


Ideas of Barak, drawn by Vernon Ah Kee, predominantly using compressed black charcoal on grey primed stretched canvas. The use of a projected image of Barak, onto the canvas assisted Kee’s in loosely scribbling an outline of Barak’s facial features. Once the structural foundations were in place, the projection of Barak’s image was not required and the remainder of the drawing Kee’s completed, via the use of a photo of Barak in-hand.


Kee’s impression of Barak, an inspirational Victorian indigenous leader and painter, is emotionally charged. The intensity behind Barak’s eyes exemplifies a powerful presence, his cultural influence within the indigenous community was significant, as it is to Kee’s himself.


Vernon Ah Kee, scribbling with black compressed charcoal, the finer detail of Barak’s brow.


Kee’s use of white conte’ sticks to highlight Barak’s facial features, and creating depth with the layering of compressed black charcoal, making the image seem realistic from a distance. Kee’s draws short sharp scribbles adding intrigue, beautifully capturing Barak’s spirit and presence through his eyes, clearly the main feature of the drawing it is hard to not be captured by Barak’s stare which seems to follow you. The piece measures 1800mm H x 2400mm W.


Detail of Barak’s nose, using scribble technique, highlights in white conte’.


This piece is one part of a bigger installation including a video of Kee’s thoughts on what it means to be an Aboriginal Artist and a video of a group of friends of Kee’s having a conversation about Barak.   These two items were not present at the NGV at the time of the visit.


Dianne Whittle 2015, Indigenous Art – Moving Backwards into the Future, NGV, Viewed 29 July 2015


NGV Melbourne 2014, Vernom Ah Kee: Investigating “Idea of Barak”, NGV, Viewed 2 August 2015






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