Gordon Syron

 

 

Gordon Syron was number 11 of 16 children and was brought up on a dairy farm at Minimbah on the mid-North Coast of NSW. From 1972 to 1982 Gordon served a life sentence for killing a white man over his family's land. In 1972 Syron taught himself to paint and took tips from forgers. In 1978, while still in prison, Syron had his first solo exhibition at Murawina on Eveleigh St. Redfern. Syron attended with a guard from prison and was escorted back to prison after the exhibition was over. It was a success and Syron began to paint of the living conditions of Aboriginal people in the NT.

 

After prison, he co-founded, with Bobby Merritt, the "Eora Visual and Performing Arts College" in Redfern. Syron was the first art teacher there.

 

In the early 1990s Syron renewed interest and involvement in politics and history of Aboriginal self-determination led him to paint a major series of 20 large canvases on the theme of Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. This series was shown at NSW Parliament House in 1996. Syron's most well-known work is 'Judgement By His Peers' (1978) which he painted while in gaeol. It is a courtroom scene where the judge and jury are all black and the lone defendant in the dock is a white man. This painting has come to represent the way that many Aboriginals feel, as the story is turned around and satirically and ironically the roles are reversed. Instantly this painting conveys in a universal way, that justice for the Aboriginal person has a distorted history. 

 

Syron's paintings have been and still are displayed widely including at three Olympics. He and his wife Elaine, keep a historical collection with dreams and works towards a permanent National Keeping Place for Aboriginal people.