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Reproduced courtesy of Neil Healey

Sower of Nails

Date: 2014
Display dimensions: 1230 × 990 × 20 mm
Medium: Oil, acrylic. ink, pencil and collage on board
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Neil Healey
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00054544

User Terms

    A painting by Neil Healey titled 'Sower of Nails'. It depicts Captain James Cook, knee deep in water at a beach where he is throwing nails all over the sand.

    Healy depicts Cook as a mythical figure casting nails on the empty shoreline. 'Exchange' the mythical Cook ponders, is the language of encounter. Gifts such as nails were used as a form of communication by Cook and his crew, and a means of accessing the land and its people. However, the Europeans trinkets were of little interest to the Indigenous people and Healey's work suggests the idea of misscomunication.
    SignificanceThis painting by Neil Healey is significant in providing an Indigenous view of first contact and European occupation of Australia.
    HistoryThis work by Neil Healey was produced for East Coast Encounter, a multi-arts initiative involving Australian Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, writers and songwriters to re-imagine the encounter by Lieutenant James Cook and his crew with Indigenous people in 1770.

    Cook's voyage along the Australian east coast has become central to national historical narratives. The East Coast Encounter project asked artists to re-envisage this seminal journey by imaginatively exploring moments of contact between two world views during these encounters. It also brought these events into the present by incorporating artists' reflections on their relevance today, and their responses to visits to significant contact locations. Topics such as encounter, impact, differing perspectives, nature and culture and views of country are investigated.

    "Neil Healey looks at the idea of exchange as the language of encounter. He presents Cook as a mythical figure who casts nails on the empty shoreline in a gesture reminiscent of Millet’s 19th century painting Sower. Gifts were used as a form of communication by Cook and his crew and a means of accessing the land and its people. However, the Europeans’ trinkets were of little interest to Aboriginal people. Cook casts his offerings with a grand gesture yet he does not look directly into the land or towards the people with whom he wishes to engage. In this way Healey suggests the idea of miscommunication.

    Standing in his own blue reflection, one arm behind his back and poker-faced he casts an offering of nails to the white sand – bright, shiny objects to be used as a first step in building and joining. And because there is no forthcoming offer of a hammer to drive them, they become little more than ornaments. So he casts them to the sands and waits for them to take root. But every individual trinket was ignored - viewed with suspicion – and left untouched. Mingling incongruously with whatever the waves may bring over time. "

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Sower of Nails

    Collection title: East Coast Encounters collection

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