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Juan Davila
(1946 - living) Chile - Australia

Juan Davila

Artist, writer


Juan Davila was born in Santiago, Chile. He moved to Australia in 1974 and now lives in Melbourne. He is one of Australia's most respected and creative artists, represented in all State and National art museums, an editor for the Art and Criticism Monograph Series (Melbourne), and Member of the Committee of Revista de Critica Cultural in Santiago, Chile.

Davila's varied education includes studies undertaken at the Colegio Verbo Divino Santiago, (1961-63), the Law School of the University of Chile (1965-69), and the Fine Arts School of the University of Chile (1970-72).

In the 1970s his work had an immediate impact on the Australian art scene. In the last three decades he has continued to explore the role of art in social and political contexts, passionately advocating the need for art to address and debate issues of social and political significance.

In 2002 his solo exhibition at Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art, Melbourne, entitled Woomera, looked at the Australian detention centre and the treatment of refugees. The Drill Gallery, Australian National University presented a survey exhibition of his work from 1988-2002 in the same year as part of the Latin American theme at the Humanities Research Centre, ANU. This exhibition included work referencing Latin America and Australia, through the images of what he described as 'the half-caste itinerant in Chile- a so-called terrorist' and 'the refugee in Australia'.

But barricades can't stop Davila from imagining their torment. He has memories of his own to draw from: of repression, of loss, of fleeing Chile and the totalitarian Pinochet regime. To look at Davila, one would never guess at the politically and sexually charged nature of his works.

The "refugees" in Davila's paintings have no names, only numbers, nor are they from any particular racial type. Davila has not given them the features of Afghans, Iranians or Iraqis. He has intentionally depicted them as "ordinary" white folk. Smaller works, such as The Refugee Camp Condom Vending Machine, featuring a crocheted condom, point to the perverse conditions refugees tolerate in detention centres.


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