Dean Cross: Monuments


13 AUG – 1 OCT 2020

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

181-187 Hay St, Haymarket, Sydney, NSW

Monuments is a site-responsive work by artist Dean Cross– an ongoing project since 2016, intended for exhibition every two years. Handfuls of white ochre – consisting Ngunnawal/Ngambri Country where the artist grew up, and gathered with permission from local elder and custodian of the land Aunty Matilda House – build a grid that spreads across the gallery floors.  A number of the ‘monuments’ are interspersed with gold leaf. With each handful representing one year of colonisation in Australia, Cross’ Monuments to strength, survival and custodianship challenge colonial concepts of ceramics, memorialisation and memory. Says Cross: “A Western statue is a depiction; my monuments are the real thing”[1].

Monuments is exhibiting at 4A in 2020 as a precursor and grounding work to 2021 4A exhibition Drawn by stones. Drawn by stones brings together artists who utilise the ceramic medium to interrogate contested histories, stolen land, Indigenous sovereignty, and concepts of national identity. In 2021, exhibiting artists from Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan will further investigate the creation of a sense of ‘nationhood’ through ceramics, demonstrating how the medium can both memorialise and tell alternative histories.

 Dean Cross was born and raised on Ngunnawal/Ngambri Country and is of Worimi descent. He is a trans-disciplinary artist primarily working across installation, sculpture and photography. His career began in contemporary dance, performing and choreographing nationally and internationally for over a decade with Australia’s leading dance companies. Following that Cross re-trained as a visual artist, attaining his Bachelor’s degree from Sydney College of the Arts, and his First Class Honours from the ANU School of Art and Design.

Cross has shown his work extensively across Australia. This includes the exhibiting of Monuments as part of the 2018 Indigenous Ceramic Prize at the Shepparton Art Museum, curated by Anna Briers and Belinda Briggs; Tarnanthi at the Art Gallery of South Australia, curated by Nici Cumpston (2017); RUNS DEEP a solo show at Alaska Projects, Sydney (2018); The Churchie Emerging Art Prize (2016); The Redlands Konica Minolta Art Prize (2015); and the Macquarie Group Emerging Art Prize (2015) where his work was awarded the Highly Commended prize by artist Joan Ross. In 2020, Cross has staged solo exhibitions I LOVE YOU. I’M SORRY at Firstdraft Gallery, and A Sullen Perfume at Yavuz Gallery. Cross has also exhibited at Outerspace, Brisbane; Alaska Projects; the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, as a part of the NEXTWAVE Festival Melbourne, with curator Amelia Winata; and at Artbank, Sydney in Talia Smith’s In a World of Wounds. Dean was also selected to be a part of the 4A Beijing Studio Residency Program in Beijing, China in 2018. Dean’s work has been collected extensively and is held in significant public and private collections including the National Gallery of Victoria, The Art Gallery of South Australia, The Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, and the Canberra Museum and Gallery. He is represented by Yavuz Gallery, Sydney and Singapore.

[1] Cross, Dean, quoted in “Of Salt and Ochre: Contemporary Clay and Kinship with Country”, Briers, A and Briggs, B, The Journal of Australian Ceramics, July 2018.


Watch a short artist talk with Dean Cross, where he reflects on this monumental work at 4A, and the stories and legacies that inform his trans-disciplinary practice. Filmed at 4A on 15 September 2020, this video features an introduction by 4A Deputy Director Bridie Moran, who curated Dean Cross: Monuments as a precursor to the 2021 Drawn by stones exhibition.

Download the transcript here.

Exhibition Documentation:

All Images:

Dean Cross, Monuments (2018 – ongoing indefinitely, 2020 iteration), handfuls of Ngunnawal ochre & gold leaf, dimensions variable; photos: Kai Wasikowski for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian art; courtesy the artist.

Handfuls of white ochre and gold leaf squares laid in a grid layout on a hardwood floor in a naturally lit gallery room with white walls

Piles of white ochre on a hardwood gallery floor

Close-up of white ochre granules on a square of gold leaf