Simon Gende’s paintings are a humorous commentary on society


Papua New Guinean artist Simon Gende was born in Gere in the Gembogl district of Chimbu province and is from the Kuman language group. Inspired by fellow Chimbu artist, the late Mathias Kauage, he began painting in 1989 and is now one of Papua New Guinea’s most respected artists.

Gende is known for his paintings that provide often humorous and insightful commentary on society, religion, history and contemporary events. Drawing on newspaper accounts and accepted historical evidence – Gende reinterprets these sources in new combinations according to his particular world view. Characterised by directness, saturated with colour, suffused with irony, and using stylised or silhouetted figures, Gende paints subjects as diverse as the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, and Diana, Princess of Wales, lifting them from the pages of major print media and presenting them in an alternative universe — the urban and rural landscape of Papua New Guinea.

His artworks on display in ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT9) were inspired by a week-long visit to Brisbane in 2017, during which time he was introduced to the work of Indigenous Australian artists Vincent Namatjira and his late grandfather Albert Namatjira (1902–59). On this trip, Gende also researched Papua New Guinea’s history using the State Library of Queensland’s archives, and ventured into Brisbane’s nightlife.

Installation view of Simon Gende’s work in APT9

Read more on APT9 / Subscribe to YouTube to watch behind-the-scenes video

Delver deeper into APT9 with Tcheu Siong

Tcheu Siong is an ethnic Hmong artist whose unique, large-scale textile works capture her own dreams and visions in connection to her Hmong ancestry and spirituality. Her work depicts a range of figures and creatures that are identified within the Hmong spiritual world by her shaman husband, Phasao Lao. While the Lao Hmong are known for both their decorative and narrative textiles, Siong demonstrates a unique approach, departing from traditional design to create an experimental form of contemporary art.

APT9 publication

APT9 has been assisted by our Founding Supporter Queensland Government and Principal Partner the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

Feature image: Simon Gende, Kuman people, Papua New Guinea b.1969 / Kawage spearing the Australian first plane to PNG 2018 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas / 77 x 118cm / Collection: Simon Gende / © Simon Gende