Sydney Morning Herald Column

Peter Rushforth

August 3, 2013
Vase c1991, tenmoku and jun glazes, was resist decoration, (h)28cm, d)26cm

Pottery today is in a paradoxical position. Alongside the wraparound videos, sculptural installations and performance works favoured by the contemporary art museums it seems decidedly unsexy. Yet stand in a gallery in front of a great pot and it is hard to think of anything more sensual, more engaging, more reflective of the human hand … More


Hollywood Costume

July 27, 2013
A costume worn by Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey, 1936

In Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, a turning point arrives through a change of costume. James Stewart, playing the damaged cop, Scottie, sees a girl who closely resembles the dead woman who haunts his thoughts. That woman, Madeleine, is on Scottie’s conscience and in his heart. In Judy, a shop girl from Kansas, he recognises Madeleine’s double … More


Sydney Moderns

July 20, 2013
Herbert Badham, 'George Street, Sydney', 1934

When an artist calls a work A Painted Picture of the Universe it means he’s thinking big. It’s rather a grand title for a small abstraction, even if it did take Roy De Maistre 14 years to complete this cosmological fantasy. De Maistre (1894-1968) is one of the central figures in Sydney Moderns: Art for … More


Philip Wolfhagen

July 13, 2013
Phillip Wolfhagen, Past the dead wattle no. 1’, 2009, oil & beeswax on linen, 46 x 49cm

To appreciate the art of Philip Wolfhagen one must be tolerant of repetition. Few Australian artists are more devoted to the serial approach to painting: fastening on to a particular motif, making small changes in colour and tone on successive canvases until the theme is exhausted. For Wolfhagen’s fans the process is mesmeric, for his … More


The Red Queen

July 6, 2013
Lindsay Seers, called Nowhere Less Now, 2012

It’s becoming difficult to remember what Hobart was like before David Walsh started his Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Within two-and-a-half years this Gothic fortress of sex and death has eaten up the city more effectively than any movie monster ever ate Detroit. Every day a steady procession of tourists from all over … More


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