Sydney Morning Herald Column

Mad Love

July 22, 2017
Kathryn Del Barton's delirious stain through hair and flesh………and stain through fur and flesh………

Although we live in a world in which the ugliest forms of nationalism seem to be making a comeback there is one partial antidote: cultural exchange. As we become progressively more familiar with the art, music, film, fashion and cuisine of another country, the fear and suspicion of the Other is diminished. Japan, for instance, … More


Ray Hughes: Africa

July 15, 2017
Gbinglo, by Cyprien Tokoudagba

There is still some dispute about the importance of Jean-Hubert Martin’s 1989 exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Magiciens de la terre, which laid down an historic challenge to the Eurocentrism of western art museums. For former art dealer, Ray Hughes, there is no dispute whatsoever. It was a game-changer. Hughes acquired his first African artefacts … More


O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism

July 7, 2017
Margaret Preston, Implement blue (1927)

There are exhibitions that sound marvellous in theory but somehow fail to measure up when they make it to the gallery walls. O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism at the Art Gallery of NSW is an almost perfect example. As one of those projects that puts Australian artists on equal terms with a better known … More


Kader Attia

July 1, 2017
Kader Attia, watching heads from J'Accuse (2016)

If ever an artist were attuned to the temper of our times it is Kader Attia (b.1970). Following a successful showing in Documenta 13 in 2012, this French-Algerian creator of multimedia installations and videos has since become one of the most sought-after artists in the world. The piece that made such a powerful impression was … More


Art Basel 2017 & Documenta 14

June 22, 2017
The title of Art Basel's special installations section said it all...

Contemporary art can be a punishing obsession for its true believers but rarely do the art die-hards get the chance to attend four major events during a single visit to Europe. The Venice Biennale, which has been running since the second week in May, has now been joined by a uniquely bifurcated version of Documenta, … More


Eurovisions

June 14, 2017
Urs Fischer, 'Al Dente' (2016)

This year’s Financial Review Rich List reveals that Australia today has no fewer than 60 billionaires. For an economy in perpetual crisis, demanding sacrifices from the lowest wage earners, things are obviously working well for some people. Looking at this list it’s remarkable how few of our billionaires do anything at all for the arts. … More


Elisabeth Cummings

June 6, 2017
Elisabeth Cummings, 'Edge of the Simpson Desert (Diptych) (2011)

In the annals of Australian art Elisabeth Cummings was an almost invisible presence for the first 30 years of her career. The story would change in the early 1990s when she began to attract serious attention from private collectors, who are always quicker off the mark than public institutions. After a slow start, partly due … More


William Eggleston: Portraits

June 1, 2017
Untitled 1969-70 (the artist's uncle, Adyn Schuyler Senior, with assistant and driver, Jasper Staples, in Cassidy Bayou, Sumner, Mississippi)

In By the Ways, an off-beat documentary about William Eggleston, there is a sequence in which the photographer answers questions from an unseen German interviewer. Straining after profundity the interviewer asks: “Do you understand your work as an expression of your existence?” There’s an agonising pause, then a response in Eggleston’s southern drawl: “Probably.” Eggleston … More


Bill Henson

May 25, 2017
Bill Henson, Untitled

Walter Pater famously opined that all art aspires to the condition of music, but Bill Henson is an artist who views the boundaries between art, music and literature as completely porous. In his case one might go further and blur the lines between painting, sculpture and photography. No photographer is more skilled at creating images … More


Venice Biennale 2017 – Viva Arte Viva

May 19, 2017
Damien Hirst played the role of Godzilla in this year's Biennale

Ask people to name the most romantic city in the world, and Venice is usually at the top of the list – but there are dissenters. D.H. Lawrence said Venice was green, slippery and abhorrent, and he didn’t even have to contend with the crowds in the Giardini and Arsenale during the opening days of … More