Sydney Morning Herald Column

Gilbert & George

December 4, 2015
GILBERT & GEORGE: THE ART EXHIBITION
Gentlemen of the gutter: Gilbert & George. Photo: Jay Brooks/Camera Press/AustralS

In the Victorian era the English were masters of the world, known for imperial glory and the strength of their civil institutions. But what are the English known for today? According to English doctor, Theodore Dalrymple: “for their militant vulgarity, their lack of restraint, their arrogant loudness, their ferocious and determined drunkenness, their antisocial egotism, … More


8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

November 27, 2015
PUSHPA KUMARI, India b.1969, Tsunami (2015) Purchased 2015 with funds from Rick and Carolle Wilkinson through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation

If a week is a long time in politics, three years is an eternity. At the opening of the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial in 2012, the Queensland Art Gallery was trying to forge a relationship with a new Premier who didn’t turn up for the launch; and an Arts Minister who admitted she’d never been … More


Xavier Le Roy

November 19, 2015
Xavier Le Roy's 'Temporary Title' at Carriageworks, Sydney.

In 1984 the Tate Gallery in London held an exhibition called Have You Seen Sculpture From the Body? that put apparently abstract sculpture alongside photographs of nude models in motion. I thought of that obscure but innovative show last week when I visited Carriageworks for a rehearsal of Xavier Le Roy’s Temporary Title – an … More


Country & Western

November 13, 2015
William Robinson, 'Shaded pool Carnarvon', oil on canvas, 92 x 122cm, 2008, Rockhampton Art Gallery collection

As Country & Western: landscape re-imagined tours Australia, it will leave a trail of disappointed music fans. The title seems to promise some mystical conjunction of landscape painting and Slim Dusty. In reality it’s all landscape. At the S.H.Ervin Gallery there is not even the sound of a guitar twanging in the background. It makes … More


Wiradjuri Ngurambanggu & Jonathan Jones

November 6, 2015
Nicole Foreshew, Remain, 2015, Clay and iron oxide, Images copyright and courtesy the artist.

This weekend is the last opportunity to see Sculpture By the Sea. I can’t justify a full-scale review at this late stage but in its 19th year the event’s popularity shows no sign of waning. When I walked from Bondi to Tamarama one afternoon there was the usual hubbub of foreign languages, the relentless clicking … More


The Greats

October 30, 2015
John Singer Sargent, 'Lady Agnew of Lochnaw' (1892)

At the Art Gallery of NSW the dream of a gleaming new building has become so intoxicating that management seems to have forgotten about the humdrum business of exhibitions. This has been slightly frustrating for old-fashioned types like myself who would prefer the gallery to be a place to see art, rather than a glorified urban … More


White Rabbit: Paradi$e Bitch

October 23, 2015
Shao Yinong & Muchen, Fairy Tales in Red Times—Black, 2003-2007, hand-dyed colour photograph, 160 x 120 cm.

Every new show at White Rabbit is supposedly “the best yet”. How could it be otherwise? No art museum, public or private, likes to take a backward step. This time, however, I’m inclined to agree. There’s something very complete and confident about the exhibition, Paradi$e Bitch. In a display of mostly new acquisitions, we get … More


Matthys Gerber

October 16, 2015
Matthys Gerber, Self Portrait, 2002, oil on polyester, Collection of the University of Queensland, purchased 2005, image courtesy and © the artist, photo: Carl Warner

One might imagine there is no need to explain why Matthys Gerber’s survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art is called Matthys Gerber, but curator Natasha Bullock tells us “it is in keeping with Gerber’s belief in the pre-eminence of the artist over art above all other considerations.” (Italics in the original) It’s not exactly … More


Ann & Sophie Cape

October 9, 2015
Ann Cape, 'Solitude', 2015, oil on canvas, 122 x 91.5cm

Today is World Mental Health Day and the last day of National Mental Health Week. Admittedly, such events always make me think of Tom Lehrer’s song, National Brotherhood Week – “Step up and shake the hand of someone you can’t stand…” and so on. The singer notes in his introduction that Malcolm X was killed … More


Flora & Fauna

October 2, 2015
Embellishment - metallic thread and gilt bead reticule, 1890

Fashion exhibitions have drawn millions of visitors to the world’s leading art museums, but there are still cultural snobs who believe such events merely trivialise an institution. I can hardly be bothered rehearsing the old argument that sees fashion as a filthy commodity while art is food for the soul and the intellect. It’s an … More