Sydney Morning Herald Column

Salon des Refusés 2016

August 5, 2016
Glenn Morgan's 'Self-portrait in shed'.

Émile Zola gave us a vivid, barely-fictionalised account of the first Salon des Refusés, in his novel, L’Oeuvre (AKA. The Masterpiece): “He could see the visitors’ mouths gaping, their eyes narrowing, from the moment they passed the door; across the room, a group of young people were staggering back against the archway as if someone … More


Degas

July 28, 2016
Edgar Degas
Group of dancers (red skirts) (Groupe de danseuses (Jupes rouges)) 1895–1900
pastel
77.0 x 58.0 cm
Lent by Glasgow Life (Glasgow Museums) on behalf of Glasgow City Council: from the Burrell Collection with the approval of the Burrell Trustees (35.243) © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Degas had a dread of publicity and an intense dislike of journalists. “Those people trap you in your bed,” he grumbled, “strip off your shirt, corner you in the street, and when you complain, they say: ‘You belong to the public.’” Almost a hundred years after his death, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834-1917) has become public property … More


Frida and Diego

July 22, 2016
Frida Kahlo Diego on my mind (Self-portrait as Tehuana) 1943 The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art © 2016 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico DF

When 22-year-old Frida Kahlo married 42-year-old Diego Rivera in August 1929, her parents described it as the union of a dove and an elephant. This may have been a fair description of the newlyweds’ physical attributes, but Diego was also an elephant in terms of his public profile while Frida seemed as quiet as a … More


Archibald Prize 2016

July 15, 2016
Winner: Archibald Prize 2016, Louise Hearman, Barry, 2016

For a severe case of cultural vertigo try spending three weeks in the museums of Europe gazing at portraits by Rembrandt, Rubens and Beckmann, before hurrying back to Sydney for… the Archibald Prize! If travel broadens the mind it’s a positive disadvantage when it comes to appreciating the charms of this great Australian institution. Faced … More


Sally Gabori

July 8, 2016
My Country 2005Synthetic polymer paint on canvasCollection: The Estate of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori© Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori. Licensed by Viscopy

Indigenous art is never purely “abstract” but it comes mighty close in the works of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori (c.1924-2015), the subject of a eye-opening retrospective at the Queensland Art Gallery. Gabori’s paintings may refer to Bentick Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where she lived until the age of 24, but to call her … More


Telling Tales

July 1, 2016
Shirley Purdie, Daaloony (Green Plum Buchanania Obovata) from the series Goowoolem Gijam – Gija plants, 2013-16, ochre on canvas, 72 parts: 45 × 45 cm each, image courtesy the artist and Warmun Art Centre © the artist/Licensed by Viscopy 2016, photograph: Jessica Maurer

At the 1986 Adelaide Festival I attended a couple of evenings with American actor, Spalding Gray, who sat on a bare stage and delivered monologues. It sounds like a recipe for boredom but Gray’s performances were spell-binding – a revelation as to the power of simple, unadulterated story-telling. In tribal cultures the role of story-telling … More


Cindy Sherman

June 23, 2016
Cindy Sherman, UNTITLED #470. 2008

Some leading artists come across as would-be pop stars or super salesmen. There are those like Marina Abramovic, who are charm personified; others, such as Matthew Barney, immersed in their work to the point of distraction. Cindy Sherman is a study in normality. Small of stature, still fresh-faced at 62, put her in a group … More


The David Roche Foundation

June 17, 2016
Maude Earl, Pointer at sunset, c.1900, England, oil on canvas.

David Roche (1930-2013) led an enviable life. Supported by the wealth of a property development firm started by his father, for most of his 83 years he never had to work at all. Instead he could but devote himself to two passions: collecting art and antiques, and breeding pedigree dogs. With the opening of the … More


Tang

June 10, 2016
Tang: Treasures from the Silk Road Capital showing at Art Gallery of NSW

Mention the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) and I think of Robert Van Gulik’s character, Judge Dee – the Sherlock Holmes of ancient China. Di Renjie (c.630-c.700) was a real magistrate of the Tang period but became the fictionalised hero of a series of detective stories set in those times. The inspiration came from a story … More


Whistler’s Mother

June 3, 2016
James McNeill Whistler
American 1834–1903
Arrangement in grey and black no. 1: Portrait of the artist’s mother 1871 oil on canvas, 144.3 x 162.5 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 699) Photo : © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Jean Schormans

In the recent Head On photo festival, one memorable picture showed a side-on view of a dominatrix in a shiny black jump suit sitting in a curved chair. On the grey wall behind the sitter was a framed photo of a muscle-man’s torso covered in leather straps. It was Whistler’s Mother for bondage fiends and … More