Here Bell uses Brisbane’s picturesque riverfront as a backdrop for a well-catered dinner party in a luxurious mansion. Over the course of the dinner a number of famous Australians, will speak, as if privately, of their views of the interrelationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in this country
Scratch an Aussie takes form as a Freudian therapy session in which Bell opens up to a therapist, played by well-known activist Gary Foley, about his perceptions of race relations. This session is interspersed with Bell assuming the role of therapist for a group of young blonde-haired Australians as he urges them to frankly discuss their concerns and attitudes about Aboriginal people.
BROKEN ENGLISH (Suzanne Howard 2009) M
Bell elucidates questions of Aboriginal political empowerment through questions posed within the various contexts of a chess game, a gallery opening and an Australia Day re-enactment of Captain Cook’s landing.
Enfant terrible , bad boy of Aboriginal art , angry Aboriginal artist , these are some of the terms that have been used to describe Richard Bell. Bell, however, describes himself as a propagandist and his art as liberation art; propagandist because his highly coloured synthetic polymer on canvas works speak of Aboriginal oppression, government policies, anthropological research, art market feeding frenzies, Aboriginal art industries and non-Aboriginal Australia’s fascination with ‘the exotic other’; liberation art because as Bell states in his artist statement in the 2007 “Culture Warriors” catalogue. Born in Charleville, Queensland, in 1953 the eldest of two boys, the family moved frequently in search of work, living in Augathella, Morven, Mitchell, Rockhampton, Dalby and Darwin. His father was frequently absent, working as a drover and cane cutter. By the time Bell was 17 he was living in a flat with his brother, Marshall (then 14) when their mother died. The Queensland authorities deemed that the two boys were in danger and threatened to send them to state government homes until they were fostered by Nellie and Harold Leedie in Bowenville, 60 kilometres northwest of Toowoomba in southeast Queensland. Nellie Leedie is a cousin of “Sugar” Ray Robinson the renowned Aboriginal activist from Charleville. Bell’s works are held in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Queensland Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, Museum of Contemporary Art, Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Gold Coast Regional Gallery, Artbank, Queensland University of Technology and the University of Queensland.