Corrective Services NSW

Geoff Websdale

Geoff Websdale, Innovations of Identification

Innovations of identification

Acrylic on canvas, 2003

Websdale’s striking painting ‘Innovations of Identification’ is a bold personal and political response to issues surrounding individual identification, the right to privacy and ownership of your own identity.

It was motivated largely by the introduction of mandatory DNA testing of NSW Prison inmates which began on Jan 1st, 2001. Geoff felt strongly about the protection of a person’s right to their own privacy and believed this move by the state to take DNA from certain inmates represented a massive breach. Innovations of identification depicts the wholescale access to his identity Geoff was forced to provide while incarcerated.

In the multilayered and highly graphic painting, elements of Geoff’s private personal ID documents are replicated and repeated for all to see: his MIN number (the six-digit correctional centre identification number); his inmate ID photograph/mugshot; his date of birth; his fingerprint; and the barcode inmates were issued for purchases such as the weekly ‘buy-ups’. The word ELOQUI also appears in prevalent red lettering – it is from Latin, meaning to "speak out." Cell bars are visible in the background.

The implied statement of the painting is: ‘Here is all my private information on display, take everything!’

Altering scale, positioning and tonal value of the data creates layers of depth and movement in the composition. There is much for the viewer’s eye to explore.

Of his art practice Geoff wrote: “Self-expression is a path to an individual’s understanding of himself. In a lot of cases particularly my own, being able to express myself in a non-verbal fashion has lessened anxieties and enabled myself to express myself verbally on a social scale.”

Geoff’s work was exhibited extensively at the Boom Gate Gallery. In 2005 the media selected Geoff’s painting to promote Convictions, the inmate exhibition at the College of Fine Arts, Paddington. Innovations of identification was also used to decorate various departmental publications.

Geoff Websdale sketch
Geoff Websdale sketch
Geoff Websdale sketch
Geoff Websdale sketch
Geoff Websdale painting
Geoff Websdale painting
Last updated:

03 Oct 2023

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