Sydney Morning Herald Column

Louise Hearman

October 15, 2016
An image of Untitled #1279 by Louise Hearman

Smokers who have become desensitised to the horror photos on cigarette packets may be surprised to find the same images exquisitely rendered in paintings at the Museum of Contemporary Art. In a survey of Louise Hearman’s work, a glass case in a side room offers an insight into the strange, unsettling pictures found in the … More


John Olsen: The You Beaut Country

October 7, 2016
John Olsen, 'Where the bee sucks, there suck I' (1984-86)

John Olsen has always been larger-than-life – a quality that has fostered both adulation and irritation. In the 1950s when he was still searching for a direction, Olsen did some thinking about the nature of art. “If it’s not a game there’s something wrong,” he concluded. According to his biographer, Darleen Bungey, this would become … More


John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea

October 6, 2016
A still showing the beauty of John Akomfrah's Vertigo Sea. Photo: John Akomfrah

John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea is the flagship piece in a suite of exhibitions at the UNSW Galleries called Troubled Waters. The entire ensemble includes a 26-minute, 5-channel installation by Georgia Wallace-Crabbe called The Earth and the Elements; and a multimedia exhibition called River Journey, featuring work by Janet Laurence, Andrew Belletty, Nici Cumpston, Bonita Ely … More


Jonathan Jones: Barrangal Dyara

September 22, 2016
Prototype ceramic shields on site at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. Photo: Emma Pike/Kaldor Public Art Projects

Jonathan Jones’s Barrangal Dyara (Skin and Bones) is one of the most ambitious art projects ever seen in this city, and one of the most ephemeral. It acts as a massive aide-memoire to public consciousness, reminding us of what has been buried and forgotten within little more than a century. Yet the physical form of … More


Marion Borgelt & Paul Selwood

September 17, 2016
Paul Selwood's Green Mountain

Ever since mayor, Jeff McCloy, decided that Newcastle Art Gallery couldn’t afford a renovation and didn’t need a director, the place has been as lively as a wet weekend in Miami. This has been a disaster for one of Australia’s leading regional galleries. Perhaps only Ballarat and Bendigo could claim to have more important collections, … More


Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2016

September 10, 2016
Noel McKenna Animals I have known 2015-16 © Noel McKenna

In its first incarnation the Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial concentrated on landscape. For the second Biennial, subtitled Close to Home, curator Anne Ryan has come up with something much cooler, namely “narrative based on memory and experience”. This must be why nobody could tell me the theme of this year’s show when I asked. “It’s … More


Francesco Clemente

September 2, 2016

No contemporary artist could be more elusive than Francesco Clemente, who was born in Italy in 1952 but divides his time between homes in New York and Varanasi. Although his output has been voluminous over the past 40 years it would be hard to point to any single picture and say it was his masterpiece. … More


Jompet Kuswidananto & Katthy Cavaliere

August 25, 2016
Jompet Kuswidananto's 'After Voices' at SCAF Sydney.

“Within the crowd there is equality,” wrote Elias Canetti, in his compelling, eccentric book, Crowds and Power (1960). “All demands for justice and all theories of equality ultimately derive their energy from the actual experience of equality familiar to anyone who has been part of a crowd.” Yet within that feeling of equality generated by … More


Scorsese

August 18, 2016
Martin Scorsese. © Brigitte Lacombe

In The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Martin Scorsese drew on a painting by Hieronymus Bosch showing the grotesque faces of spectators watching the carrying of the Cross. The image is a mild surprise in the Scorsese exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. Most of the display feels rooted in … More


Art Stage Jakarta

August 12, 2016
Art Stage Jakarta: Taking Indonesian Art Global

For over a decade Indonesia has been the worst-kept secret in contemporary art. The wave has been building and breaking since 1998 when the repressive reign of President Suharto came to an end. Yet the origins of the movement go much further back, before the fragile roots of democracy could take hold. In the past … More