Julie Rrap, Speechless, 2017, Bronze and steel
Credit: Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley 9 Gallery/Image © Michael Waite

Max Dupain’s photography has long been synonymous with a version of sun-drenched Australian history that has inspired a great deal many artists and fans alike. Opening this weekend, an exhibition of new works commissioned of 15 artists reimagines the quintessential Dupain photograph, the Sunbaker, for a contemporary setting with often surprising results.

Under the Sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker tasked artists including Julie Rrap, William Yang, Christopher Day and Justene Williams with reinterpreting Sunbaker through their respective lenses, in doing so crafting a new vision of Australian culture and identity. Many of the artists were selected for the diversity of their practices and perspectives across cultures, ethnicities and faiths, resulting in a multi-vocal dialectic that interrogates questions of gender, the body, politics, colonisation and our relationship to the land on which we lie. The artist’s interpretations range from pastiches that flirt with parody to abstractions that obliterate any semblance of the original, while still retaining the essence of Dupain’s iconic photograph.

“The 15 artists will not only interrogate the social and political implications embedded within this image but also challenge the status of this photograph in our visual culture,” exhibition curator, Claire Monneraye, said in a statement. “Pushing the boundaries of the photographic medium, their works will expose the aesthetical complexities at play in discussions around collective identity.”

Last year, an auction of photographs taken from Dupain’s personal archives set an astonishing new record for photographic collections sold at auction. At the time, the feat was lauded as a coming-of-age for the photographic arts in this country. Five hundred exhibited photographs were sold to over 400 registered bidders for a record $1,663,237, proving that now, more than ever, Dupain’s images still strike a chord with contemporary audiences.

Under the Sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker will be presented at the State Library of NSW from February 18 until April 17 and in Melbourne at Monash Gallery of Art from May 6 until August 6, 2017.

Tile and cover image: Courtesy of the artist and the Sate Library of New South Wales