Sydney Morning Herald Column

Gareth Sansom: Transformer

December 30, 2017
Gareth Sansom, 'The Seventh Seal (i) (2007)

Invited to nominate a masterpiece for a Radio National interview, Gareth Sansom decided to talk about Ingmar Bergman’s movie, The Seventh Seal (1957), which he first saw when he was 18 years old. Decades later he was still thinking about the film, making it the subject of large-scale paintings in 2007 and 2013. The Grim … More

NGV Triennial 2017

December 23, 2017
Ron Mueck's 'Mass' takes up an entire gallery

Melbourne has long been envious of the Sydney Biennale, which has just announced the artist list for its 21st iteration in 2018. At the opening of the inaugural NGV Triennial this week there was much talk of the one-and-only Melbourne International Biennial, held in 1999, under a title that in retrospect sounds a little tragic: … More

Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow

December 15, 2017
Yayoi Kusama in front of her painting 'Life is the Heart of a Rainbow'

Yayoi Kusama has been the most hyperproductive of artists, but old age seems to have inspired even more prodigious feats. At 88-years-old her annual output of retrospectives, surveys, commercial exhibitions, public art projects and self-penned publications is mind-boggling. Most artists would feel pleased if they achieved as much during an entire lifetime. It helps, of … More

Pipilotti Rist: Sip My Ocean

December 8, 2017
Pipilotti Rist, tripping without drugs

“I will always be grateful to popular culture,” Pipilotti Rist told an interviewer in 2001. As a recent video clip by Beyoncé shows, popular culture should also be grateful to her. Pipilotti Rist: Sip my Ocean, at the Museum of Contemporary Art reveals the many and various ways this remarkable Swiss multi-media artist embraces popular … More

Rembrandt & the Dutch Golden Age

December 2, 2017
The star attraction: Vermeer's 'Woman reading a letter' (c.1663)

“There is one work by Vermeer, the undoubted superstar, and six by Rembrandt, including two from the NGV’s permanent collection. Three portraits by Frans Hals give some indication of this artist’s remarkable flair and dash. After that, it is a pot-pourri of genres and tendencies…” No, I’m not writing about Rembrandt & the Dutch Golden … More

The Unflinching Gaze

November 24, 2017
George Platt Lynes, 'Blanchard Kennedy' (1936)

In the entire history of Australian regional galleries there has never been a show like The Unflinching Gaze: Photo Media & the Male Figure. Retiring director, Richard Perram, has decided to go out on a high note with a exhibition that has been years in preparation. Despite the double entendre in the title Perram doesn’t … More

Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium

November 17, 2017
Robert Mapplethorpe, 'Self-Portrait' (1985)

It may be the acid test of political correctness but it should be possible to dislike Robert Mapplethorpe’s work without being viewed as homophobic. Mapplethorpe often said he didn’t wish to be known as a “gay artist”, but he is such an icon for the LGBT community it’s virtually impossible to dissociate his work from … More

Gerhard Richter

November 10, 2017
Gerhard Richter, Ema (nude on a staircase) the 1992 photoprint

For decades Gerhard Richter has been one of the world’s most successful living artists, with work in museums and leading private collections all over the planet. The current record price for one of his paintings stands at US$46 million. Now comes the the biggest test of a long and distinguished career: Can he make it … More

Tarnanthi 2017

November 2, 2017
The Kulata Juta project

Constitutional recognition for indigenous Australians is another one of those issues the government would prefer not to think about. Its proponents say it’s a matter of basic human rights but this term has been so weirdly politicised in recent years there are people who interpret a call for rights as opening the door to anarchy. … More

Sculpture by the Sea 2017

October 27, 2017
David Ball's 'Orb' took out the big prize

Sculpture by the Sea is 21 years old and everyone is invited to the party. From the moment the show opened last week the walk from Bondi to Tamarama was crowded with sightseers, school groups, and tourists speaking a confusion of languages worthy of the Tower of Babel. Cameras and mobile phones were clicking relentlessly. … More