Australian Art

Abstraction

September 17, 2011
Aida Tomescu, Welt II, 2005, mixed media and collage on paper

Among the unsolicited art emails that appear in my mail-box every week, one recent posting came from the Martos Gallery in New York, who were holding an exhibition called We Regret to Inform You There is Currently No Space or Place for Abstract Painting. The image that came with the email showed this sentence written … More


Fred Williams

September 10, 2011
Fred Williams, You Yangs landscape, oil on composition board

When the previous retrospective of an artist’s work contained no fewer than 417 pieces, it is inevitable that a new exhibition of about 120 pictures will be known as the ‘smaller’ show. That earlier Fred Williams’s mega-retrospective was held at the National Gallery of Australia in 1987, but I still have a vivid recollection of … More


Din Q. Lê: Erasure, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair 2011

August 27, 2011
Dinh Q. Lê Erasure, 2011 digital video (still) Courtesy the artist and Sàn Art Independent Artist Space, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

It was astonishing to learn that in a recent opinion poll Australians rated border protection as a more important issue than health, education, transport or housing. This is one of those statistical miracles that testify to our growing sense of social paranoia and the power of political scare campaigns. The facts are well known but … More


Tonsorial philosophy

August 26, 2011
Gunybi's installation from the WAIAA

My barber is a philosopher. By this, I don’t mean to compare him to those hairdressers who style themselves “creative artists working in the medium of hair”. Dimitri Kokinelis, barber of Gardeners Road, Rosebery, is a genuine thinker who devotes his time between haircuts to pondering questions of truth, wisdom, justice and nature. He has … More


David Aspden

August 26, 2011
David Aspden untitled

Like Tom Roberts before him, David Aspden (1935-2005) was born in rural England and arrived in Australia around the age of fifteen. This is a time of life when the biggest part of one’s adult personality is already formed. Roberts, who grew up in the age of Empire, was never quite sure if he was … More


The last days of the Caponian empire

August 9, 2011
Locust Jones, News of the world

What a deathly year it has been for artists! In quick succession we have lost Cy Twombly, Lucian Freud, and now John Hoyland. The latter was especially disturbing, as I had just contributed a catalogue essay to his exhibition with Charles Nodrum in Melbourne. Logically there is nothing surprising about someone dying at a ripe … More


Edmund Capon & his legacy

August 3, 2011
Photo: Nick Moir, SMH

This won’t be the first or last time that someone declares Edmund Capon a hard act to follow. In his thirty-one years as director of the Art Gallery of NSW, Capon has taken a provincial, down-at-heel institution and turned it into a Grade-A showcase for Australian and international art. Yet he leaves at time when … More


Goodbye Margaret, hello Brisbane

July 31, 2011
Margaret Olley sketching in Newcastle, 1965

There are a number of phone calls that I dread, although they are inevitable. One arrived last Wednesday when the SMH Arts Editor, Clare Morgan, rang to tell me that Margaret Olley had died. Margaret has been a fixture on the Australian art scene since the 1940s, and it would be difficult to think of … More


Margaret Olley 1923 – 2011: An Appreciation

July 25, 2011
margaret-olley-archibald

“Hurry, hurry, last days!” Margaret Olley would cry when someone tried to involve her in another hopeful project. It usually involved Margaret making a donation of some sort, or simply gracing an event with her presence. At the end she found it easier to write a cheque rather than face a room full of people … More


Eugene von Guérard

July 23, 2011
Eugene Von Guerard NGV

In the entire history of Australian art, no painter has ever been through greater extremes of adulation and neglect than Eugene von Guérard (1811-1901). In the 1860s he was recognised as the finest landscapist in the colony, but by the 1870s his reputation was in decline. In the following century he was all but forgotten. … More