Sydney Morning Herald Column

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


Windows to the Sacred

September 14, 2013
Aleister Crowley, The Hierophant (study for Tarot), 1921

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law,” was the personal motto of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) once known to the headline writers as “the Great Beast” and “The Wickedest Man Alive.” It was a philosophy that would endear him to the counter-culture of the sixties and make him a hero for rock … More


Richard Avedon: People

September 7, 2013
Richard Avedon, Elizabeth Taylor, cock feathers by Anello of Emme, New York studio, July 1964

“Youth never moves me,” said Richard Avedon (1923-2004). “I seldom see anything very beautiful in a young face.” This may sound strange, coming from one of the most celebrated fashion photographers of the twentieth century, but it pinpoints that quality which sets Avedon apart. He had a ‘hard’ definition of beauty, as opposed to the … More


String Theory

August 31, 2013
Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 6.31.03 PM

String Theory is loosely defined as “a theory of everything” – which makes it an appropriate title for an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Be prepared, however, for a different experience to that provided by the usual cutting-edge creations. Allowing for a few conspicuously sophisticated items, most of this show of indigenous fibre-based … More


C.J.Pyle & J.D.’Ohai Ojeikere; Mary Tonkin; Six Artists, Seven Days

August 24, 2013
C. J. Pyle, Carbonique, 2011, ballpoint pen, paint and graphite on LP jacket sleeve, 31 x 31 cm

After many years of exile from the high church of contemporary art, Ray Hughes is now thinking maybe there is a God. His faith has been momentarily restored by a visit from Chris Dercon, the director of Tate Modern, London, who came to Australia last month to deliver a lecture sponsored by Kaldor Public Art … More


One week in Darwin

August 17, 2013
Gulumbu Yunipingu, Ganyu-the universe, 2008 (detail)

Darwin will always be a frontier town, but at this time of year it is the most cultured place in Australia. Enjoying a brief window of perfect dry season weather, the Darwin Festival has become a keenly anticipated event, with a lively mix of local and international acts. Because the Northern Territory is the heartland … More


Kevin Connor, Ricky Swallow & ‘Found’

August 10, 2013
Kevin Connor, Evening light (Liverpool Street west) with courthouse and cat, 2013, oil on canvas, 193 x 203 cm

Kevin Connor’s paintings aren’t pretty but they are attractive, having the peculiar magnetism of anything done with no thought of an audience or a peer group. This only begins to seem like a virtue when one thinks of all the art made as part of a career strategy, or by those who want to be … More


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