Margaret Preston

This essay is about our perception of Margaret Preston’s works “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden” and “The Expulsion”

In both paintings we can see that Mrs Preston used indigenous Australians to portray Adam and Eve. We also see the Garden is full of life, including plants and animals that are native to Australia. The colours are vibrant and the whole painting is alive. The humans seem to be content in the Garden. Adam is hard at work making a boomerang and Eve is content to be by his side. The animals seem to have no fear of the humans, because the humans were there to take care of them. It seems a contradiction then that the man is making a boomerang. He did not need to hunt the animals, they were all around him.

This is a picture of inclusion. The natives are at one with the garden, and everything in it.

In “The Expulsion” we can now see Adam and Eve (still portrayed as aboriginals) banished from the Garden while a white angel is guarding so they can’t return. On the outside of the gate, life is scarce and desolate. However if we notice closely, we can see one of the plants outside the garden is a prickly pear which is edible. We also see a Sturt Desert Pea, which I think is a beautiful flower.

This tells me that even while Adam and Eve were outside the walls of the garden, God intended to still take care of them. By giving the beauty in the flower and the provision of food in the prickly pear, God shows that he is still concerned for their wellbeing.

Focusing on the humans in this picture, it seems that the woman is happy to be banished from the garden and is now free outside Gods rules. The man however, looks to be in pain and anguish, regretting the day he ever crossed God. Let me focus also on the baby. It seems to me that this baby is a lighter colour or complexion than its parents. Is Margaret saying that the mother was perhaps raped by a white man? Maybe that is why she looks so happy to be leaving the compound.

In contrast, the expulsion shows total exclusion. The natives are now cut off from the land, with nature and everything they were once comfortable with. The natives are alienated from their homeland.

Margaret is showing she is very sympathetic to the Aboriginals and their struggles and problems. If only they were left alone to be content by white man, they would still be living a stress-free existence in the Garden.

1 Comment

Filed under art, literature

One response to “Margaret Preston

  1. Michael Predigital Wilson

    A fascinating essay David. I wonder though about your blaming Europeans for our “sable cousins” fall from grace. Isn’t it natural for opposites to attract one another and to keep them apart would surely require a form of apartheid?

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