Sydney Morning Herald Column

Anne Landa Award 2013: The Space Between Us

June 29, 2013
Angelica Mesiti, Citizens Band, 2012 (detail)

There must be a name for the sense of anxiety generated by an exhibition of new media art. Neomediaphobia? It’s a bit cumbersome. Even if the syndrome has yet to be titled its effects are very real. Having just taken twenty people into an exhibition of Contemporary Norwegian Video Art in Oslo, I’m in a … More


Edvard Munch 150

June 22, 2013
Edvard Munch, The Dance of Life, 1899-1900

“My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness,” wrote Edvard Munch, from a Copenhagen clinic, where he was being treated for alcohol-induced hallucinations. “Without anxiety and illness, I am a ship without a rudder… My sufferings are part of my self and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and their … More


Jeffrey Smart 1921-2013

June 22, 2013
Jeffrey Smart, Cahill Expressway, 1962, oil on plywood, 81.9 x 111.3 cm

Although he assumed an imposing stature in his later years, Jeffrey Smart was a grafter not a dasher. A careful, methodical craftsman, he had little respect for painters such as Sidney Nolan who might produce dozens of canvases in a week. For Smart a painting had to be constructed with the same care that an … More


Sculpture by the Sea, Aarhus

June 15, 2013
Bjorn Godwin and Jette Gejl, The Garden of Natural Delights (After Bosch), Sculpture by the Sea, Aarhus, 2013

For the third time in six years Australia’s most popular exhibition has been transplanted to the coast of Jutland, drawing enormous crowds. Sculpture by the Sea first came to Denmark’s second city, Aarhus, in 2009, at the behest of Crown Prince Frederik and his Australian bride, Crown Princess Mary. Had the Danish Royal Family been … More


Venice Biennale 2013: The Encylopaedic Palace

June 8, 2013
Vadim Zakharov, Danaë, Installation view, Russian Pavilion

Every Venice Biennale is a talk fest – a place for the beautiful people of the art world to exchange opinions and business cards at endless parties. Unfortunately most of the talk is of a very tawdry nature: “I just loved the Ruritanian pavilion!” “Oh yeah, I loved it too!”  And so on, ad infinitum. … More


Art Basel in Hong Kong 2013

June 1, 2013
Yayoi Kusuma, Flame of Life — Dedicated to Tu-Fu (Du-Fu)

Hong Kong is said to have got its name from the smell of incense stored in warehouses by the waterfront. Nowadays in “the fragrant harbour” the dominant smell is that of money, and it’s a perfume most residents find highly agreeable. There was a certain tang in the air last week, as the increasingly successful … More


5th Auckland Triennial: If You Were to LIve Here…

May 25, 2013
Do Ho Suh, A Perfect Home: The Bridge Project,  2010, Auckland Art Gallery synchronised four-monitor animated digital slide presentation, two single-channel videos, sound 11:00min

After studying the recently announced theme for next year’s Sydney Biennale – “You Imagine what You Desire” – I’d like to suggest an alternative title, borrowed from a video by Singaporean artist, Ho Tzu Nyen – The Cloud of Unknowing. I know this was the name of a mystical tract from the late Middle Ages, … More


Monet’s Garden

May 18, 2013
Claude Monet, 1840–1926 Waterlilies, evening effect (Nymphéas, effet du soir) (1897, oil on canvas, 73.0 x 100.0 cm

Approaching the National Gallery of Victoria for Monet’s Garden, I expected to find the moat festooned in water lilies, and enter through an archway covered in climbing roses. The reality was slightly different: the same old bluestone façade, with red and blue Mazdas parked by the doors. After so many years of sponsorship, I’m conditioned … More


Jeff Wall

May 11, 2013
Jeff Wall, The Destroyed Room, Transparency in light box, 159 x 234cm

Even in this age of digital revolution most people will accept that a painting or a sculpture demands to be seen at first hand. Photographs, however, are a different matter. Not only are the works of every great photographer viewable on-line, they often look better in a large-format book than on the gallery wall. Not … More


Monet preview

May 4, 2013
Claude Monet, Waterlilies (Nymphéas), 1916–19, oil on canvas,150.0 x 197.0 cm

Paul Cézanne paid Claude Monet one of the most famous backhanded compliments in the history of art when he wrote: “Monet is just an eye, but good God, what an eye!”  (“Monet n’est qu’un oeil, mais bon Dieu, quel oeil!”) In his later years that eye failed the great Impressionist at a time when he … More