Art Essays

Russell Drysdale: The Drawings

March 3, 2012
Russell Drysdale, Church and Buildings, Hill End,1948

When Lou Klepac tells us that Russell Drysdale “was always reluctant to get on with painting or even drawing,” it is the merest understatement. Of all the Australian artists who have made a lasting contribution to the national culture, Drysdale was the least driven by either ambition or compulsion. This year is the hundredth anniversary … More


Love Lace

February 25, 2012
Alice Vokac,First Day Wonder -Lace panel: bobbin lace in cotton and silk threads,195 x 265 x 2 mm

Over the past few years the Powerhouse Museum has attracted plenty of critics, but turn up on a Saturday and the place is full of people. Does this mean the criticisms are baseless – the mere bleating of snobs and elitists? Well no, actually. Since its grand opening in 1988, the building has always been … More


Fred Sandback; Wim Delvoye; Abstract Canvas; Philip King

February 18, 2012
Wim Delvoye: Dump Truck (scale model 1:4,75), 2010 lasercut corten steel 200 × 47 × 69cm

Over the years Andrew Jensen has edged his way north, starting in Christchurch, moving to Wellington, on to Auckland, and last year crossing national lines and arriving in Sydney. What makes the Jensen Gallery unusual is that the exhibition program consists of 70-80 per cent international art – the kind of art we normally only … More


Geoff Dyer, Stephen Bird, Etsuko Fukaya, Joanna Braithwaite

February 11, 2012
Stephen Bird, Eliza Day, 2011

When Thoreau wrote: “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”, he probably wasn’t thinking about art dealers. Yet the phrase springs to mind when one considers the sluggishness of the commercial art scene over the past couple of years. While the art market weathered the GFC better than was generally expected, an extended … More


Impressions: Painting Light & Life

February 4, 2012
Julian Ashton, 'Study of Alice Muskett', oil on wood, 1893

A survey of portraiture by Australian artists of the late nineteenth century would seem to be long overdue. Despite the institutional obsession with all things contemporary, the works of the so-called Australian Impressionists – Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Fred McCubbin and Charles Conder – remain the most popular drawcards in our public collections. The problem … More


Wim Delvoye

January 28, 2012
Wim Delvoye, Cloaca Professional, 2010

Adolf Loos, the outspoken Austrian designer and critic, argued: “the modern person who tattoos himself is either a criminal or a degenerate.” Loos was writing in 1929, and one can only wonder what he would make of the present day vogue for tattoos that cover an arm and half a torso. He would probably see … More


Elisabeth Cummings

January 21, 2012
Elisabeth Cummings, Magnetic Termite Mounds, 2011

A recent press release from the National Gallery of Australia announces an exhibition of 200 years of Australian landscape to be held at the Royal Academy, London, in September 2013. This is a long-overdue event, and it is to be hoped the NGA takes the opportunity to make the show something more than a historical … More


Brian Wallace

January 14, 2012
Chen Qingqing (senior artist), No and Keng

Over the past two decades Chinese art has made inroads into the Australian museum and gallery world, prompting Brian Wallace of Bejing’s Red Gate gallery, to put together a travelling exhibition for his native land. To welcome in the year of the Dragon, the City of Sydney will host Two Generations – 20 years of … More


Renaissance in Canberra

January 7, 2012
Giovanni BELLINI, Madonna and Child (Alzano Madonna), c.1488

There will be some in Canberra who find it ironic that Ron Radford is hosting a show devoted to the Renaissance at the National Gallery of Australia, when his first significant act as director in 2006 was to send the museum’s small collection of Old Masters on permanent loan to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. As … More


Matisse: Drawing Life

December 17, 2011
Henri Matisse, Henri Matisse gravant (Henri Matisse etching), Drypoint on wove paper, 1900–03

Henri Matisse was almost certainly the finest colourist in modern art but the bulk of his work contained no colour at all. Although the mention of his name conjures up thoughts of The Red Studio, The Joy of Life, or perhaps the kaleidoscopic Woman with a Hat, over the course of a long career Matisse … More