The Conquest, 2013

100 x 75 cm
edition of 30
$2,000, unframed
$2,800, framed

Cook’s Conquest represents another chapter in master printmaker Rew Hanks’ revision of stories about our culture – this time he re-reads the stories of Captain James Cook’s forays around the South Pacific, while simultaneously addressing Australian culture’s obsession with sport at the expense of art and the environment. His narrative is suspended across two invasion stories: European invasion precipitated by Cook’s arrival in 1770; and the invasion of the cane toad after its introduction in 1935 (to combat the sugar-cane beetle). Hawaii figures in both of these stories – romanticised in history paintings, it was the site of Cook’s demise; and more recently, it was from Hawaii that the cane toad originated.

Since the 1990s, Hanks has been engaging with established versions of Australian history – both the official and popular culture versions. His labour-intensive technique has been deployed to produce highly detailed lino-cut prints which irreverently question some of our enduring national myths. Starting with the known and immediately recognisable, he uses these familiar images and stories as the scaffold upon which to hang his revisions. With a conscious disregard for accepted boundaries around the bundles of knowledge labelled as Official History or Popular Culture, he plunders the archives to create his own humorous lexicon – the sense of play is palpable in these images.