Billy Bain deconstructs ‘manly’ history of Manly

Northern Beaches

Local artist Billy Bain is challenging colonial narratives of masculinity with his unique exhibition Being Manly at Manly Art Gallery & Museum (25 March – 19 June 2022).

An Indigenous man born and raised in the Manly area, his paintings and ceramic artworks playfully examine popular iconography and histories of the area while referencing the continued presence of the traditional custodians of this land.

“When Captain Arthur Phillip encountered the Gayemagal people in 1788 he was impressed by their ‘confidence and manly behaviour’, so he named the area Manly Cove,” Mr Bain said.

“Though Manly’s cultural identity pertaining to masculinity has remained, cultural icons such as the surfer, the lifeguard and the footballer have emerged and shifted the public’s perception of what it means to be ‘Manly’.

“Being Manly seeks to unsettle colonial narratives of masculinity by playfully deconstructing popular iconography and histories related to Manly’s cultural identity.”

The presence of Indigenous figures in his artwork shifts our perception of Manly’s cultural identity away from being a strictly white construct to imply the continued presence of the traditional custodians of this land.

Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan welcomed Billy Bain’s exhibition to the regional gallery.

“This is a playful and thought-provoking exhibition exploring one man’s identity as an Aboriginal person and Manly local, while providing an opportunity for us to reflect on our local histories and cultural identities,” Mayor Regan said.

“Exhibitions like this reaffirm Manly Art Gallery & Museum’s presence as a vibrant cultural hub for our community.”

Billy Bain completed a Bachelor of Fine Art in 2019, graduating with first class honours from UNSW. He is currently based at Avalon Beach where he creates from his home studio.


Education Hub: Billy Bain – Talk Tour Discussion

Saturday 2 April, 2 – 3pm

High school students, meet Billy Bain for an artist-led tour and informal discussion about his creative processes; from ideation and research, to drawing and experimentation, then to the visual realisation of finished works. Hear directly from an arts practitioner, learn more about the art world and help develop your knowledge of critical analysis.


Billy Bain and Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran

Sunday 10 April, 3 – 4pm

Billy Bain will join his former university professional practice mentor and renowned ceramicist, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, in a lively discussion about his work in the exhibition, ‘Being Manly’ and the ideas that underpin his artistic practice in ceramics and painting.


MAG&M Society in Conversation Series: Billy Bain

Thursday 21 April, 6 – 7pm

Presented by MAG&M Society, this special ‘in conversation’ with Senior Curator Katherine Roberts, will illuminate Billy Bain’s artistic practice and tease out the messages conveyed through his work. How does he view the way masculinity plays out in contemporary Australian culture? How does he explore his Aboriginality through his work?



Manly Art Gallery & Museum

West Esplanade Reserve, Manly NSW 2095

Open Tue – Sun, 10am – 5pm (closed Mondays & Public Holidays)

Free entry

T: 02 9976 1421

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