Sydney Morning Herald Column

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


Adman: Warhol Before Pop

April 21, 2017
Andy does Madison Avenue

In the catalogue for Adman: Warhol Before Pop, at the Art Gallery of NSW, Thomas Sokolowski finds it “astounding that after so many years of exhibitions and publications, critics continue to find value only in Warhol’s early 1960s work.” As a former director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg, and the man behind a … More


Peter Powditch: Coast – A Retrospective

April 14, 2017
Peter Powditch, The Big Towel (1969), Collection, The National Gallery of Victoria

Pop to Popism, held at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2014, was not a show that left glowing memories, but one work has remained lodged in my mind. Peter Powditch’s The Big Towel, which appeared in the Australian section of the exhibition, looked incredibly fresh for a painting made in 1969. Part of its … More


The National

April 8, 2017
Khadim Ali's The Arrival of Demons at the MCA

One wonders if The National: New Australian Art is intended as a subtle riposte to the National Gallery of Victoria’s Melbourne Now of 2013-14. “No navel gazing here in Sydney – we’re bringing you art from all over the country.” The NGV’s bright idea may have been predicated on Melburnian self-esteem but final attendances topped … More