Sydney Morning Herald Column

Kader Attia

July 1, 2017
Kader Attia, watching heads from J'Accuse (2016)

If ever an artist were attuned to the temper of our times it is Kader Attia (b.1970). Following a successful showing in Documenta 13 in 2012, this French-Algerian creator of multimedia installations and videos has since become one of the most sought-after artists in the world. The piece that made such a powerful impression was … More


Art Basel 2017 & Documenta 14

June 22, 2017
The title of Art Basel's special installations section said it all...

Contemporary art can be a punishing obsession for its true believers but rarely do the art die-hards get the chance to attend four major events during a single visit to Europe. The Venice Biennale, which has been running since the second week in May, has now been joined by a uniquely bifurcated version of Documenta, … More


Eurovisions

June 14, 2017
Urs Fischer, 'Al Dente' (2016)

This year’s Financial Review Rich List reveals that Australia today has no fewer than 60 billionaires. For an economy in perpetual crisis, demanding sacrifices from the lowest wage earners, things are obviously working well for some people. Looking at this list it’s remarkable how few of our billionaires do anything at all for the arts. … More


Elisabeth Cummings

June 6, 2017
Elisabeth Cummings, 'Edge of the Simpson Desert (Diptych) (2011)

In the annals of Australian art Elisabeth Cummings was an almost invisible presence for the first 30 years of her career. The story would change in the early 1990s when she began to attract serious attention from private collectors, who are always quicker off the mark than public institutions. After a slow start, partly due … More


William Eggleston: Portraits

June 1, 2017
Untitled 1969-70 (the artist's uncle, Adyn Schuyler Senior, with assistant and driver, Jasper Staples, in Cassidy Bayou, Sumner, Mississippi)

In By the Ways, an off-beat documentary about William Eggleston, there is a sequence in which the photographer answers questions from an unseen German interviewer. Straining after profundity the interviewer asks: “Do you understand your work as an expression of your existence?” There’s an agonising pause, then a response in Eggleston’s southern drawl: “Probably.” Eggleston … More


Bill Henson

May 25, 2017
Bill Henson, Untitled

Walter Pater famously opined that all art aspires to the condition of music, but Bill Henson is an artist who views the boundaries between art, music and literature as completely porous. In his case one might go further and blur the lines between painting, sculpture and photography. No photographer is more skilled at creating images … More


Venice Biennale 2017 – Viva Arte Viva

May 19, 2017
Damien Hirst played the role of Godzilla in this year's Biennale

Ask people to name the most romantic city in the world, and Venice is usually at the top of the list – but there are dissenters. D.H. Lawrence said Venice was green, slippery and abhorrent, and he didn’t even have to contend with the crowds in the Giardini and Arsenale during the opening days of … More


Van Gogh and the Seasons

May 13, 2017
Vincent Van Gogh, A wheatfield with cypresses (1889)

When Vincent Van Gogh shot himself in a field near Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890 he was on the verge of a successful career. The tide had turned against Impressionism, which was felt to be too dry and rational in its methods. Up-and-coming critics such as Albert Aurier were championing the role of the imagination, and saw … More


Magic Mike: Michael Zavros

May 5, 2017
Michael Zavros, Phoebe is dead/McQueen (2010),

Any artist who paints with the quasi-photographic precision of Michael Zavros will always find admirers. After being subjected to more than a century of Modernist de-skilling the public is still turned to putty by virtuoso displays of technique, preferring the artist who can “really paint” to the one whose genius has to be explained by … More


White Rabbit: The Dark Matters

April 29, 2017
Tang Nannan, Billenium Waves (2015)

Contemporary culture puts a premium on instant gratification but ancient Chinese thinkers found the greatest value in the contemplation of eternal things. This was brought home to me by Tang Nannan’s Dao-inspired, wide-screen video, Billenium Waves (2015) at the White Rabbit Gallery. It’s nothing more than a four-minute close-up of waves lapping under a dark … More