Sydney Morning Herald Column

Head On, Michael Johnson & Eva Breuer

May 31, 2014
Deborah Paauwe,
'Crown of Roses', 2013 @ Michael Reid Gallery

Moshe Rosensveig is the Dr. Frankenstein of Australian photography – Head On, the photo festival he started five years ago, has become a certified monster. There are no fewer than 37 ‘featured’ exhibitions and almost 70 ‘associated’ exhibitions spread across the city, involving an estimated 900 artists. The program also boasts 150 events, including workshops, … More

Art Basel Hong Kong 2014

May 24, 2014
Art Basel on May 15, 2014 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Xaume Olleros / Art Basel

Never has brand power been more in evidence at an art event than at Art Basel Hong Kong 2014. This was the seventh incarnation of this popular fair, but only the second under the ownership of the company responsible for the two biggest contemporary art fairs in the world – Art Basel and Art Basel … More

Sam Fullbrook

May 17, 2014
Sam Fullbrook / Northwest landscape with Aborigines (detail) 1955 / Oil on canvas/ Gift of Mrs Anthea Wieneke 1984 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery/ © The artist /

When Matisse suggested that if you want to be an artist you must first cut out your tongue, he was acknowledging a fundamental truth: artists spout a lot of rubbish when they talk about their work. Rare indeed is the painter who can discuss his or her pictures in a calm, pragmatic manner, but Sam … More

Richard Mosse & William Kentridge

May 10, 2014
The Enclave, production still, Trevor Tweeten (cinematographer) shooting Arriflex 16mm camera mounted on Steadicam in South Masisi, Nov 2012.

Although the world is in colour, many photojournalists see it in black-and-white. When a photographer seeks to capture the brutality of a war or the pathos of its victims, colour is often seen as a distraction. The very absence of colour seems to symbolise the unbridgeable gulf between the world depicted in such images and … More

Bill Brown

May 3, 2014
Bill Brown, 'Canard' (2010), acrylic on canvas, 92 X 97cm. Photography: Mikaela Burstow

Many years ago, when I was still a baby art critic, I remember Bill Brown at a party bawling drunkenly that he was the best painter in Australia. Having never seen his work I was in no position to argue. Shortly afterwards, Brown had a solo exhibition at the old Macquarie Galleries. If he was … More


April 26, 2014
Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul Ribbed bowl

“After Akcha,” wrote Robert Byron, in his legendary travel book, The Road to Oxiana (1937) “the colour of the landscape changed from lead to aluminium, pallid and deathly, as if the sun had been sucking away at its gaiety for thousands and thousands of years; for this was now the plain of Balkh, and Balkh … More

19th Biennale of Sydney (Part 2)

April 19, 2014
Michael Cook, Majority Rule (Tunnel), 2014, inkjet print on paper, 98 x 140 cm or 140 x 200 cm.

In a dream I’m walking through a vast international exhibition with Juliana Engberg, director of the 19th Biennale of Sydney – You Imagine What You Desire. We both have notepads on which we list those works we find especially interesting. Strangely enough we never stop in front of the same work. The things I like, … More

Roger Brown

April 12, 2014
Roger Brown, 'Untitled (Figure/Tree/Shrubs)'
c. 1968

In a week in which former President George W. Bush revealed his secret passion for painting it’s a neat coincidence that the Hughes Gallery is holding a survey of Roger Brown (1941-97), a Chicago artist with a fascination for politics. Having spent much of his working life in an era in which New York was … More

Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy

April 5, 2014
"A souvenir of Velazquez 1868" (detail) by Sir John Millais.

If there is one issue that divides the art of the past from the art of today it is how we assess quality. A primary motivation for the founding of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768 was to establish standards of excellence by which artworks may be judged. The members of the R.A. formed … More

19th Biennale of Sydney

March 29, 2014
Mircea Cantor, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, 2012 (video still), HD video, 4 mins. Courtesy the artist; Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris; Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv; and Magazzino, Rome. Sound: Semantron of Putna Monastery.

Biennales thrive on controversy but there is a feeling of unease about this year’s headlines. No-one envisaged artists boycotting the Biennale because the founding sponsor has government contracts to manage detention centres. It was no cause for celebration when Transfield’s Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, one the few dedicated patrons of the arts in corporate Australia, felt obliged … More