Two Sicilies – 2020

Skills: Painting

Two Sicilies explores the development of Western tourism as a form of colonisation, particularly in Anglo culture.  From the Grand Tourists of the 18th and 19th century to fun park visitors in 20th century Sydney, tourists and travellers sought to possess and experience the exotic, and the destination was made to perform for their amusement.

The experience of leisure and tourism in early Sydney is one that can be described as continual burial. This started when a fan of Lord Nelson replaced the name of a beach with that of Nelson’s dukedom of Bronte in Sicily. It continued apace with the Wonderland amusement park at Tamarama, where the beach was virtually obliterated under a collection of kitsch facsimiles of other cultures that had themselves been colonised or fetishised by Europeans. Katzenjammer Castle, an Alpine slide and an unfortunate elephant named Alice were all conscripted into this chaotic makeover.

Yet back in the land of Bronte’s namesake it is excavation, not burial, that guided the tourist aesthetic. From the beginning of what we understand to be tourism in the area, visitors have been drawn in by a desire to uncover. In the era of the Grand Tour, visitors to Pompeii enjoyed the spectacle of watching something being unearthed – a dramatically flambéed skeleton, or even a doubly-exotic Egyptian temple. These were not fresh finds, but sites that were reburied and dug up over and over again for entertainment purposes. The discovery event was no more authentic than Wonderland’s Japanese Tea Garden.

Two Sicilies is a series of paintings that combines these themes into a narrative of excessive fantasy. What does a privileged audience expect when a destination is made to perform for them? How far does that destination go to pander to the expectations of visitors, to create an ‘authentic’ experience? These highly fantastical works are based on vintage source material, but the questions of the impact of tourism are extremely relevant today.

Works measuring 91 x 76 cm and On Dolphin Shores: oil & graphite on polyester
All other works: oil & graphite on birch panel