Art Essays

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Peter Powditch: Coast – A Retrospective

April 14, 2017

Pop to Popism, held at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2014, was not a show that left glowing memories, but one work has remained lodged in my mind. Peter Powditch’s The Big Towel, which appeared in the Australian section of the exhibition, looked incredibly fresh for a painting made in 1969. Part of its … More


The National

April 8, 2017

One wonders if The National: New Australian Art is intended as a subtle riposte to the National Gallery of Victoria’s Melbourne Now of 2013-14. “No navel gazing here in Sydney – we’re bringing you art from all over the country.” The NGV’s bright idea may have been predicated on Melburnian self-esteem but final attendances topped … More


2013: The Best & Worst of the Visual Arts

January 6, 2014

My best art experience of the year happened on the other side of the planet, in a retrospective celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Edvard Munch. The show, divided between the National Gallery and the Munch Museum in Olso, revealed an unrelenting intensity of vision. It featured the most complete collection of paintings … More


Georges Braque

October 12, 2013

“Painting is not an art where anything goes.” Georges Braque. In 1977 the Fraser government struck a lethal blow to Australia’s reputation as an art-collecting nation when it torpedoed the purchase of Georges Braque’s painting, Nu debout (1908) (AKA. Grand Nu). The National Gallery of Australia had a price – $1.5 million – and an … More


Australia at the Royal Academy

September 28, 2013

Australia at the Royal Academy of Arts in London has echoes of Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster movie of 2010. Like that overblown, incoherent concoction, the one-word title of the RA show suggests this is all you will ever need to know about Australian art. It presents itself as a definitive statement. Kathleen Soriano, Director of Exhibitions … More


J.M.W. Turner: A Preview

February 2, 2013

“Soapsuds and whitewash,” they said. “Portraits of nothing and very like.” In the manner of the Biblical prophet, not without honour, but in his own country, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) spent his entire career being insulted and derided by British commentators. Although we think of him today as the greatest of all British artists, … More


Radiance: The Neo-Impressionists

January 19, 2013

Georges Seurat is a member of that small, unfortunate group of artists who were destined for greatness but died prematurely. When Seurat was carried off by malignant diphtheria in 1891, at the age of 31, modern art lost one of its most remarkable innovators. It is a loss that bears comparison to that of Masaccio, … More


David Boyd

September 8, 2012

If one had to nominate a director to make a movie about the Boyd family, it would be hard to go past Wes Anderson. After watching his new film, Moonrise Kingdom, I imagined what he might do with the eccentric childhood of David Boyd and his siblings at their Murrumbeena property, Open Country. One painting … More


Rollin Schlicht & Shaun Gladwell

September 1, 2012

Rollin Schlicht was a complex personality. Many people found him to be abrasive and self-centred, but he was also strikingly intelligent and could be charming if it suited him. Schlicht was born in 1936, and died of pancreatic cancer on 1 March, last year. He was by turns, both artist and architect. Torn between these … More


William Robinson, Aida Tomescu, Evelyn Kotai

August 25, 2012

Fred Williams used to say that if you can’t paint a portrait then your art is in trouble. He would have been surprised to see so many portraits included in his recent retrospective, as they were only ever a diversion from his landscape paintings. For an artist there is always the danger that one day … More


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