born Chile 1946; arrived Australia 1972; lives and works in Melbourne
A bush burial 2000
oil on canvas
Geelong Gallery, Gift of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and the Geelong Gallery Foundation, 2001
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art
In Juan Davila’s A bush burial the artist recasts McCubbin’s melancholy image of 1890 in the context of our country’s social and cultural diversity, and our complex contemporary politics. Davila presents before us the humanitarian and social crisis of the asylum seeker and the refugee (as relevant in 2021 as it was two decades ago).
The work is from a series of large-scale paintings that chronicle episodes in the imagined life of the artist’s alter ego Juanita Laguna—the dishevelled, dispossessed figure of the ‘other’ whose reflection we see in the cracked mirror. The figure of Juanita has arrived at the gateway to a new and promised land only to have their luggage torn open, brutally examined and, it appears, held to scorn, by a burly, bare-chested customs official. The rabid customs dog is a century away from McCubbin’s loyal and sorrowful pet at the graveside.