Sydney Morning Herald Column

Fred Williams in the You Yangs

September 21, 2017
Fred Williams, 'You Yangs Landscape' (1963)

Last year the Geelong Art Gallery held an exemplary survey of Arthur Streeton’s paintings made in Victoria’s Western Districts from 1920-32. The exhibition was a swansong for retiring director, Geoffrey Edwards. This year the gallery has marked the arrival of new director, Jason Smith, with a show of comparable importance: Fred Williams in the You … More


Sydney Contemporary 2017

September 15, 2017
Hahan, with his soon-to-be carved up mural

It was both pleasing and wryly amusing to learn that sales at this year’s Sydney Contemporary Art Fair topped $16 million. For a commercial gallery sector feeling unloved and unvisited this figure represents a resounding endorsement. Nevertheless, before breaking out the champagne it’s worth putting that achievement into perspective with a glance at Day One … More


Jenny Watson

September 8, 2017
Jenny Watson, '60s Dolly Bird' (2014)

One imagines teachers at the Julian Ashton Art School sending their pupils across the road to the Museum of Contemporary Art, to see Jenny Watson: The Fabric of Fantasy. For the traditionally-minded it’s an object lesson in how not to make art. If there are any cynics among those students, they might say: “…nevertheless, it … More


Hokusai

September 1, 2017
You may have seen this one before somewhere...

If ever an image deserved to be called “iconic” it is The great wave off Kanagawa (1830-34), by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Everyone knows this famous print of two boats menaced by a monstrous surge of water that reaches out like a hungry predator with a hundred talons. This was exactly the way the picture struck … More


Art Stage Jakarta 2017

August 25, 2017
Melati spits ink at the Macan Museum

Two moments from the week of Art Stage Jakarta 2017 will stay lodged in my mind: the would-be ‘glittering occasion’ of the inaugural Indonesian Art Award, and a performance by Melati Suryodarmo in which she spent three hours in a blank cubicle, grunting, groaning and spitting ink at the walls. Indonesian art today lies somewhere … More


The Public Body.02

August 18, 2017
Regina José Galindo, a different take on real estate

Our age is one of unprecedented permissiveness and militant puritanism. Pornography of every description is available at the click of a keyboard, small children are sexualised in a manner that would have been inconceivable to our grandparents’ generation. Yet Newton’s third law applies in psychology as well as science: for every action, there is an … More


Defying Empire

August 9, 2017
Archie Moore, Aboriginal Anarchy (2012)

During the Howard years we were constantly hearing about the Culture Wars – a term borrowed from the United States, pertaining to the battle between conservative and liberal values. In Australia the conflict became fixated on whether this continent had been taken by force from its original inhabitants, and what reparations were due. It was … More


Salon des Refusés 2017

August 3, 2017
Wendy Sharpe: The Witching Hour - Elena Kats-Chernin (composer)

Every year I nurture a dim fantasy of a Salon des Refusés bristling with masterpieces rejected from the Archibald and Wynne Prizes by the Trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW. Every year I relinquish this thought almost as soon as I step into the S.H.Ervin Gallery. The Refusés was a great idea when it … More


The 2017 Archibald Prize

July 28, 2017
Mitch Cairns's Agatha Gothe-Snape, the first Archibald Prize winner with a green nose

By the usual Archibald Prize standards 2017 is a low key year. There are plenty of neat, correct entries, a touch of quirkiness, a bit of thick impasto, but nothing to get the pulse racing with delight or indignation. Unless, perhaps, you’re a lunatic right-winger who starts to foam at the mouth at the merest … More


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