Sydney Morning Herald Column

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Yang Fudong: Filmscapes

January 17, 2015

Australian public galleries had to work hard to attract audiences last year, but in 2015 the degree of difficulty will crank up a few more notches. In such a climate institutions feel pressured to take a more populist approach – preferring shows that will appeal to a non-specialist audience over displays perceived as difficult or … More


Future Beauty

January 10, 2015

In the catalogue for Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Rei Kawakubo is named as the world’s most influential living fashion designer. Although she gives few interviews, Kawakubo did submit to a 2005 New Yorker profile by Judith Thurman in which there is a telling comparison with … More


Fashion Icons

December 13, 2014

“We invent nothing,” said Christian Dior, the man who revolutionised fashion in the twentieth century, “we always start from something that has come before.” This refreshing admission seems an appropriate place to begin discussing the round of fashion shows dominating Australia’s art museums this summer. The essential exhibition is Fashion Icons: Masterpieces from the Collection … More


Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2014

December 6, 2014

One cannot travel very far in any discussion of drawing without coming across a famous statement from the great Neo-classicist, Jacques-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: “Drawing is the probity of art.” “Probity’ means both ‘correctness’ and ‘goodness’, but also ‘moral integrity’, which allows us to imagine Ingres was saying: “to thine own self be true.” This Shakespearean motto … More


Matthew Barney

November 29, 2014

“If you read Ancient Evenings for the story,” wrote Harold Bloom, in an insightful review of Norman Mailer’s most notorious novel, “you will hang yourself.” Having ground my way through 150 pages of this flawed magnum opus I can see exactly what he means. Mailer spent ten years on a sprawling story of ancient Egypt … More


Chuck Close

November 22, 2014

Chuck Close has always denied being a “photorealist”, even when he was making huge black-and-white heads rendered in painstaking detail. It’s a mark of our complacency as viewers that we tend to see anything rendered in a precise, recognisable manner as “realist.” Chuck Close: Prints, Process and Collaboration at the Museum of Contemporary Art is … More


Pop to Popism

November 15, 2014

“Witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, big business…” all these terms were part of the definition of Pop Art put forward by British artist, Richard Hamilton, in 1957. The manifesto preceded the movement, as the term “Pop Art” wasn’t in general usage until the 1960s. There is no agreement about who invented the name or when the … More


Robert Jacks

November 8, 2014

It’s hard to be objective about Robert Jacks who passed away in August at the untimely age of 71. Jacks once told me he couldn’t say whether his paintings were any good or not, but he always knew how to put together a good exhibition. It’s pleasing that the National Gallery of Victoria have done … More


White Rabbit: Commune

November 1, 2014

In the words of the Chinese philosopher, Mencius, “we survive in adversity and perish in ease and comfort.” This thought may be universally applicable but it is especially relevant to China today, as the horrors of the 20th century recede into the mists. It has been almost 40 years since the end of the Cultural … More


Lucy Culliton

October 25, 2014

Matisse said an artist should look at everything as if seeing it for the first time. No Australian artist better captures this thrill of perpetual discovery than Lucy Culliton. Although she is now of an age that permits a mid-career survey, Culliton has an energy and enthusiasm that puts most teenagers to shame. Culliton lives … More


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