Sydney Morning Herald Column

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


White Rabbit: Reformation & ACAF: Degeneration

March 22, 2014
Don Wengsheng - The Convert No. 6

As the Biennale of Sydney opens, having severed ties with its founding sponsor, Transfield, it’s appropriate that the White Rabbit Gallery has launched a new exhibition called Reformation. From its beginnings, five years ago, the Nielsen family’s private museum of contemporary Chinese Art has presented a striking alternative to the big public art institutions. It’s … More


Dark Heart: 2014 Adelaide Biennial

March 15, 2014
Alexander Seton, Soloist, 2012. Bianco carrara marble, 95 x 75 x 70cm. Photo: Per Ericson. Courtesy: the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney

Before heading south for this year’s Adelaide Biennial I saw Opera Australia’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Pushkin’s famous character is the archetypal ‘dark heart’. Onegin humiliates the young Tatiana, who has confessed her love for him. He plays a nasty joke on his best friend, and keeps going long after he should have stopped. … More


Richard Goodwin

March 8, 2014
Richard Goodwin's 'Third World Kline', 1992. Picture: Supplied Source

If you have driven along the Gore Hill Freeway you have already experienced the art of Richard Goodwin. The abstract patterns incised on the concrete, sound-baffling walls are taken from designs by architect, Walter Burley Griffin; the transcriptions of Aboriginal rock carvings pay homage to the area’s first inhabitants. It’s a typical Goodwin project: scrupulous … More


Sol LeWitt

March 1, 2014
Sol LeWitt, Non-geometric form (splotch), 1999 painted fiberglass, 62.2 x 50.8 x 14 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales, John Kaldor Family Collection ©  Estate of Sol LeWitt

“Soulless Twit!” was the verdict from one local art identity, when I mentioned Sol LeWitt: Your mind is exactly at that line, at the Art Gallery of NSW. It’s a harsh call because LeWitt may not be the most expressive of artists but his precise, geometric work has that appeal we associate with anything so … More


Perth Festival 2014

February 22, 2014
Ryota Kuwakubo, The Tenth Sentiment, 2010 © Ryota Kuwakubo (installation view), photo: Keizo Kioku, photo courtesy: NTT InterCommunication Center [ICC] Japan.

On the sandy banks of the Swan River, Do Ho Suh’s Net-Work gleams in fierce sunlight. The piece is a tightly woven mesh made from thousands of tiny gold and silver figurines joined at the hands and feet. Draped across a metal frame it forms a walkway through which visitors can look at the sky … More


Sculpture City

February 15, 2014
Anne Ferguson's 'Plateau of Wings' (grey marble). Source SH Ervin

As proven by the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibitions sculpture enjoys a widespread popularity, but this doesn’t translate into a thriving market. It remains much harder to sell a sculpture than a painting, as private buyers tend to view sculptures as large, cumbersome objects that have no place in the domestic environment. The pieces … More


Elvis at 21

February 8, 2014
On train, New York to Memphis July 4, 1956 © Alfred Wertheimer. All rights reserved, NPG

In 1956 the United States had plenty to think about. World War II lingered in popular memory; the Cold War was in full swing; and in Montgomery Alabama, black citizens were boycotting the local buses in one of the first great campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement. But the subject causing consternation in the mass … More


Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion

February 1, 2014
Edward Steichen 
American 1879–1973, worked in France 1906–23, Tamaris with a large Art Deco scarf 1925, gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive © 1925 Condé Nast Publications

When Edward Steichen (1879-1973) accepted the job as Chief Photographer for Condé Nast publications in 1923 it was taken for granted he would work under a pseudonym. Already known as both a famous art photographer and a painter, his employer realised Steichen would probably not wish to be associated with the purely commercial work he … More


Christian Boltanski

January 25, 2014
Christian Boltanski opening at Carriageworks

Life as a conveyor belt, taking us inexorably from birth to death, is not an original idea. Charlie Chaplin had the same thought in the famous sequence from Modern Times (1936) when the worker is dragged through the machine. Chaplin had a political agenda but the image also captured the helplessness and insignificance one feels … More