Sydney Morning Herald Column

America: Painting a Nation

November 23, 2013
Henry Inman
No-Tin (Wind), a Chippewa Chief 1832–1833
oil on canvas, 77.5 x 65.4 cm
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Gift of the 2008 Collectors Committee
M.2008.58
Photo: Museum Associates/LACMA

“Thus in the beginning,” wrote the philosopher, John Locke in 1689, “all the world was America.” He was referring to a primitive state of social organisation being rapidly improved by British colonialism. Nowadays Locke’s words seem just as true, but it is because America has colonised the rest of the world. For much of the … More


Balthus: Cats and Girls

November 16, 2013
Balthus, Drawing Room, 1942

“Balthus is a painter of whom nothing is known. Now let us look at the pictures.” This was the formula proposed by this reclusive artist for the catalogue of his 1968 retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London. Whereas most artists are eager to have their lives and deeds discussed at length, Balthus (1908-2001) was a … More


Sculpture by the Sea 2013

November 9, 2013
Bert Flugelman, Semaphore, 2000, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2013. Image from Instagram.

It was not the best of times, it was not worst of times. The 17th annual Sculpture by the Sea (SxS) features the usual mix of pieces that might be described as ‘serious’ sculpture, and others that are little more than gimmicks. It has become a familiar recipe but seems to go down well with … More


Roy Jackson, John Peart, Syd Ball

November 2, 2013
Roy Jackson, Wang Wauk, 2001, acrylic on canvas, 180 x 150cm.

One morning in July I was in Wedderburn, filming an interview with the artist, John Peart. The theme of the conversation was a recent trip to the Kimberley, and the new body of work it had inspired. Inevitably we also spoke about John’s longtime friend and neighbour, Roy Jackson, who had died of lung cancer … More


Newcastle: After Five, or Five Minutes to Midnight?

October 26, 2013
Ron Ramsey, Image courtesy of Newcastle Herald

It’s distressing that every time I’ve written about Newcastle this year the exhibition has had to share column space with some new crisis. The only progress is that these crises keep getting worse, with the latest developments being almost unbelievable. At a meeting on 24 September, the Council voted to adopt a controversial restructure proposed … More


White Rabbit: ‘Serve the People’ & Li Jin

October 19, 2013
Jin Feng, History of China's Modernisation Volumes 1 and 2, 2011, rubber, marble, rice paper, dimensions variable (detail)

Serve the People was the theme of a speech given by Mao Zedong in September 1944, while the Red Army was still engaged in combat with the Japanese. One year later the invader was defeated and the Communist forces would be renamed “the People’s Liberation Army”. In the years that followed, the PLA would battle … More


Georges Braque

October 12, 2013
Georges Braque, À tire d’aile, 1956–61

“Painting is not an art where anything goes.” Georges Braque. In 1977 the Fraser government struck a lethal blow to Australia’s reputation as an art-collecting nation when it torpedoed the purchase of Georges Braque’s painting, Nu debout (1908) (AKA. Grand Nu). The National Gallery of Australia had a price – $1.5 million – and an … More


Moscow Biennale 2013

October 5, 2013
Panamarenko, The Aeromodeller, 1969

Moscow will never be a contender for the title of ‘World’s Most Liveable City’. It is a place where puny human beings are overshadowed by the architectural juggernauts of Church and State. Even the famous Metro – each station an aesthetic marvel – is so deeply embedded in the earth that every train trip feels … More


Australia at the Royal Academy

September 28, 2013
John Olsen, Sydney sun (King sun) 1965, oil on three plywood panels, 307.0 h x 412.5 w x 4.0 d cm

Australia at the Royal Academy of Arts in London has echoes of Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster movie of 2010. Like that overblown, incoherent concoction, the one-word title of the RA show suggests this is all you will ever need to know about Australian art. It presents itself as a definitive statement. Kathleen Soriano, Director of Exhibitions … More


Renaissance to Goya

September 21, 2013
Francisco de Goya, For having Jewish ancestry, c1808–14, Brush drawing in brown ink and wash, 20.5 × 14.2 cm

Illustrious artists such as Velásquez, Zurbarán, Ribera, Tiepolo and Goya are advertised on a sign at the entrance to Renaissance to Goya at the Art Gallery of NSW. Unfortunately they are hidden in a long roll call of names that will be largely unknown to the general public. Not many Australian art lovers are hanging … More