Sydney Morning Herald Column

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Francesco Clemente

September 2, 2016

No contemporary artist could be more elusive than Francesco Clemente, who was born in Italy in 1952 but divides his time between homes in New York and Varanasi. Although his output has been voluminous over the past 40 years it would be hard to point to any single picture and say it was his masterpiece. … More


Jompet Kuswidananto & Katthy Cavaliere

August 25, 2016

“Within the crowd there is equality,” wrote Elias Canetti, in his compelling, eccentric book, Crowds and Power (1960). “All demands for justice and all theories of equality ultimately derive their energy from the actual experience of equality familiar to anyone who has been part of a crowd.” Yet within that feeling of equality generated by … More


Scorsese

August 18, 2016

In The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Martin Scorsese drew on a painting by Hieronymus Bosch showing the grotesque faces of spectators watching the carrying of the Cross. The image is a mild surprise in the Scorsese exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. Most of the display feels rooted in … More


Art Stage Jakarta

August 12, 2016

For over a decade Indonesia has been the worst-kept secret in contemporary art. The wave has been building and breaking since 1998 when the repressive reign of President Suharto came to an end. Yet the origins of the movement go much further back, before the fragile roots of democracy could take hold. In the past … More


Salon des Refusés 2016

August 5, 2016

Émile Zola gave us a vivid, barely-fictionalised account of the first Salon des Refusés, in his novel, L’Oeuvre (AKA. The Masterpiece): “He could see the visitors’ mouths gaping, their eyes narrowing, from the moment they passed the door; across the room, a group of young people were staggering back against the archway as if someone … More


Degas

July 28, 2016

Degas had a dread of publicity and an intense dislike of journalists. “Those people trap you in your bed,” he grumbled, “strip off your shirt, corner you in the street, and when you complain, they say: ‘You belong to the public.’” Almost a hundred years after his death, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834-1917) has become public property … More


Frida and Diego

July 22, 2016

When 22-year-old Frida Kahlo married 42-year-old Diego Rivera in August 1929, her parents described it as the union of a dove and an elephant. This may have been a fair description of the newlyweds’ physical attributes, but Diego was also an elephant in terms of his public profile while Frida seemed as quiet as a … More


Archibald Prize 2016

July 15, 2016

For a severe case of cultural vertigo try spending three weeks in the museums of Europe gazing at portraits by Rembrandt, Rubens and Beckmann, before hurrying back to Sydney for… the Archibald Prize! If travel broadens the mind it’s a positive disadvantage when it comes to appreciating the charms of this great Australian institution. Faced … More


Sally Gabori

July 8, 2016

Indigenous art is never purely “abstract” but it comes mighty close in the works of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori (c.1924-2015), the subject of a eye-opening retrospective at the Queensland Art Gallery. Gabori’s paintings may refer to Bentick Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where she lived until the age of 24, but to call her … More


Telling Tales

July 1, 2016

At the 1986 Adelaide Festival I attended a couple of evenings with American actor, Spalding Gray, who sat on a bare stage and delivered monologues. It sounds like a recipe for boredom but Gray’s performances were spell-binding – a revelation as to the power of simple, unadulterated story-telling. In tribal cultures the role of story-telling … More


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