Sydney Morning Herald Column

Nude

December 2, 2016
John Coplans    
'Self-Portrait (frieze no. 2, four panels)' 1994    
12 photographs, black and white, on paper    
61.9 x 80 cm (each); framed panels 198 x 88 cm (each)    
Tate: Presented by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery 2001    
© The John Coplans Trust
image © Tate,  London 2016

When Justin Paton, head of International Art at the Art Gallery of NSW says that Nude: Art From the Tate Collection is not a package show, surely he means: “Not just any package show”, or “Not merely a package show”. If the term doesn’t apply to an exhibition in which 122 works out of 126 … More


Greg Semu

November 24, 2016
Collection+: Greg Semu, Earning My Stripes series, 2015, Pigment prints on Hahnemühle Photo Baryta, 100 x 133.4 cm, 
Editions 1/10, Collection: Gene & Brian Sherman, Sydney. Installation view, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, 2016
Photo: silversalt photography

Adolf Loos, famous Viennese designer and arbiter of taste, said that only criminals and savages adorned themselves with tattoos. Writing in 1928, he singled out the Papuans as representative “savages”, but he might just as easily have chosen the Samoans. In the very same year, Margaret Mead published Coming of Age in Samoa, perhaps the … More


Contemporary Istanbul 2016

November 18, 2016
View of Contemporary Istanbul 2016. Courtesy-Contemporary Istanbul.

Istanbul is proud of its historical reputation as a meeting place of cultures. This pride is apparent on the website for the Contemporary Istanbul art fair, which boasts: “As the hope chest of civilisations, Istanbul is the capital of the world…” but insecurities arise before the end of the sentence, with the qualifying clause “…in … More


White Rabbit: Vile Bodies

November 11, 2016
Li Shan, Recombinant, (2002-2006). Image courtesy the artist and White Rabbit Collection

Vile Bodies is a catchy title but there are very few points of comparison between Evelyn Waugh’s novel about the party-going lifestyles of young Londoners in the 1920s, and the current exhibition at the White Rabbit Gallery. In a Chinese context the word “party” takes on an entirely different connotation, and unless you’re on the … More


Singapore Biennale 2016

November 4, 2016
Lim Soo Ngee, Inscription of the Island, 2016. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum

Once a cultural wasteland, Singapore is now so devoted to art it’s almost unnerving. Much of the action still takes place at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), where I found myself one steamy night last week for the launch of the fifth Singapore Biennale – An Atlas of Mirrors. Guests stood on the lawn in … More


Sculpture by the Sea 2016 & Zadok Ben-David

October 28, 2016
Nicole Larkin, Dynamics in Impermanence. Photo: Clyde Yee

Sculpture By the Sea has prospered on the idea that the dramatic landscape of the Bondi foreshores provides a brilliant showcase for art. Last Sunday this view was comprehensively rejected by Mother Nature who had a tantrum and threw everything at the exhibition. There have been years when I’ve trudged between Bondi and Tamarama in … More


Black Mist, Burnt Country

October 21, 2016
Paul Ogier, One tree, 2010, carbon pigment on rag paper.

As we watch an American Presidential campaign descend into crazed conspiracy theories it seems clear that the Age of Information is also the Age of Paranoia. The chief source of fear and loathing is government, now widely viewed as a tool of “dark forces” hell-bent on enslaving the population. This kind of talk has probably … More


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