At the age of 25, Dean Cross had ticked off all the things he’d ever dreamed of in a career.
The Indigenous Australian visual artist had travelled the world, performing in theatres in London’s West End and New York as a contemporary dancer.
Encouraged by a couple of niggling injuries, his thoughts turned to a second career in visual arts. He had grown to love art by visiting galleries everywhere he travelled and theatres as a child. But above all, the walls of Mr Cross’ family home – firstly in Bywong, and then later between Sutton and Gundaroo – had the greatest impression. Every space was filled with art collected by his parents.
Among those paintings was a large collection of first-generation Hermannsburg watercolours, which followed the work of famous Indigenous Australian artist Albert Namatjira who captured the beauty of the West MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia.
“We had a lot of great art on our walls, so looking at and understanding visual culture has always been a part of my life,” Mr Cross said. “One day it clicked that visual art was something I could do, so I enrolled with Sydney College of the Arts and started a new career.”
He gained a Bachelor’s degree from the college and his first-class honours from the ANU School of Art and Design. Since then, his paintings, photography, installations and sculptures have been exhibited across Australia and received many prizes including the Indigenous Ceramic Prize, The Churchie National Emerging Art Prize, The Redlands Art Prize and Macquarie Group Emerging Art Prize. Mr Cross has also exhibited at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney and was a year-long artist in residence at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space.
In July 2021, Mr Cross’ work will appear in the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery.
A large solo exhibition was awarded to the early career artist under The Good Initiative, a new $20,000 grant and mentorship with the gallery’s director Gina Mobayed; senior curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections and exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Clothilde Bullen; and Buxton Contemporary Melbourne curator Melissa Keys.
The Goulburn exhibition will provide viewers with an immersive experience, including video and the other mediums Mr Cross works with, and rethink how we perceive the regional capital.
“One of the ideas I want to look at in the exhibition is centralism, the idea that there is an emerald city for those who live a few hours from Sydney, that Sydney is the land of opportunity for young regional people,” Mr Cross said.
“Too often, regional places get put into a category and treated a certain way, but it doesn’t need to be that way. As transport and internet get better, regional places will become more vibrant as they once were and more crucial to the social fabric, not these backwaters they’ve turned into.”
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The artist, who now lives in Sydney, said it felt good to produce an exhibition in the region he grew up in.
“Goulburn was always the place you stopped at on the way to Sydney and I’m so excited to present an ambitious show in a place that feels like home,” Mr Cross said.
Goulburn Regional Art Gallery director Ms Mobayed said Mr Cross’ work needed to be seen, considered and discussed.
“The ideas in his proposal were a vital and fascinating commentary on who we are and what is happening in contemporary society,” she said. “I am so pleased we can support him and his work, and bring it into Goulburn.”
Mr Cross has a busy few months ahead of him as he not only prepares for the exhibition but also his wedding in Braidwood.