Sydney Morning Herald Column

J.W.Power Abstraction-Création Paris 1934

December 1, 2012

Almost sixty years after his death, John Joseph Wardell Power is overdue for another look. Power is best known as the generous benefactor who provided funds for a department of art history at Sydney University and a collection that has since evolved into the Museum of Contemporary Art. It is not widely known that the … More


Francis Bacon

November 24, 2012

I love the dregs. Francis Bacon. If Francis Bacon had a theme song, it might be the Kinks’ I’m Not Like Everybody Else. Yet by his own reckoning, Bacon’s perverse, hedonistic lifestyle – with its heavy drinking, gambling and sadomasochistic sex – should not be considered the key to his painting. In a 1975 book … More


Jim Dine & Sam Francis

November 17, 2012

Several friends have sent me the same article from The Guardian about American art critic, Dave Hickey, who says he is quitting the art business because it has become “calcified, self-reverential and a hostage to rich collectors.” This diagnosis is nothing but the unvarnished truth. If we’re shielded from the worst of it in Australia … More


Francis Bacon: A preview

November 16, 2012

Sydney turned on a rainy day for the opening of the exhibition, Francis Bacon: Five Decades, at the Art Gallery of NSW. This was appropriate for an artist who spent his life in London, a city famed for its fog and drizzle. Inside the gallery, thoughts of England were quickly dispelled by the bright light … More


Jeffrey Smart: Master of Stillness

November 10, 2012

Over the years I’ve met two distinct types of person born and raised in Adelaide. The first believe Adelaide is the finest city on earth and could not imagine living anywhere else. The second claim to have never been there in their lives. Although he is not an out-and-out Adelaide denier, for as long as … More


Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro

November 3, 2012

Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro may be the first Australian artists to take full advantage of the new globalised art world. Over the past decade they have travelled incessantly, undertaken residencies in Europe and Asia, and exhibited their work in museums and private galleries from Kathmandu to Washington DC. The Museum of Contemporary Art has … More


Sculpture by the Sea 2012

October 27, 2012

Sculpture by the Sea owes much of its appeal to its outdoor setting but the exposed location brings its own hazards. There have been years in which the narrow walking trail from Bondi to Tamarama was nothing but a procession of dueling umbrellas. This year the installation was impeded by strong winds that made it … More


Sydney Long

October 20, 2012

It’s difficult to get too worked up about Sydney Long (1871-1955). He was, at best, an intriguing minor painter known for a few striking images. He was also a curious personality. Like Oscar Wilde, he was almost certainly gay, but married – a not uncommon combination in Sydney, even today. He could be charming or … More


Go Figure! Contemporary Chinese Portraiture

October 13, 2012

There is a simple explanation as to why Chinese contemporary art is so relentlessly satirical: 27 years of ideological rectitude, including that final decade of Mao-induced madness known as the Cultural Revolution. From the time the Communist Party took over in 1949 there was nothing much to laugh about. The workers paradise had been achieved, … More


Ken Whisson: As If

October 6, 2012

Ken Whisson says he has always enjoyed being “outside of the awful mainstream”, but it may be that he is about to redefine what is mainstream and what is marginal. Ken Whisson: As If at the Museum of Contemporary Art, is the most fascinating retrospective since the National Gallery of Australia’s George Lambert survey of … More