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Urban Dingo: The Art of Lin Onus 1948-1996

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


11 Aug 2000 to 29 Oct 2000

Guest Curator: Margo Neale

About the exhibition

Urban Dingo: The art of Lin Onus 1948-1996, was a retrospective exhibition of the work of Melbourne-based artist Lin Onus which formed part of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival. Organised by the Queensland Art Gallery, the exhibition was developed before Onus’ untimely death at the age of 47, and was brought to fruition with the assistance of his family.

Described by the curator Margo Neale as a ‘cultural terrorist of gentle irreverence’, Onus, a self-taught artist of Yorta Yorta and Scottish descent, left school at the age of 14 and worked as a motor mechanic and spray painter before joining his father making artifacts for the tourist market. He began painting small landscapes in oil in 1974 and in the mid-1980s developed his characteristic fusion of photo-realism and indigenous imagery. Incorporating paintings, sculptures and installations Urban Dingo acknowledged Onus’ major contribution to the emergence of urban-based indigenous art and contemporary Australian art.

In 1986 Onus was introduced to the Garmerdi community at Maningrida. Making annual pilgrimages to the community Onus acquired his knowledge of symbols, patterns and designs from the community elders. Employing wit and irreverence to include rather than alienate viewers, Onus combined Aboriginal imagery and Western art practices to create a hybrid style that spoke across cultures, highlighting points of political and social importance, drawing the viewer into a world of fact, fantasy and fiction.

Tour Itinerary

Queensland Art Gallery, Qld: 24 November 2000 – 4 March 2001
Melbourne Museum, Vic: 6 April – 29 July 2001