Sydney Morning Herald Column

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


Arthur Streeton & Kevin Lincoln

May 27, 2016
Kevin Lincoln, Pan and bowl, 2007, oil on canvas on board, on board 31.5 x 35.5cm. Private collection, © Kevin Lincoln / licensed by Viscopy, 2016

“If we so choose we can yet be the elect of the world, the last of the pastoralists, the thoroughbred Aryans in all their nobility.” These words were penned by J.S.MacDonald in the special Arthur Streeton Number of Art in Australia, October 1931. At the time MacDonald was director of the National Art Gallery of New … More


White Rabbit: Heavy Artillery & Cang Xin

May 20, 2016
Xu Zhen (produced by MadeIn Co), European Thousand-Armed Classical Sculpture, 2014.

There has never been a centralised, authoritarian form of government that encourages diversity. This is why alarm bells should start ringing when our own leaders want to keep centralising power – amalgamating local councils under the leadership of unelected administrators; putting a town’s art gallery, museum and theatre under the jurisdiction of a single “cultural … More


Jan Senbergs

May 12, 2016
Jan SENBERGS, Altered Parliament House 1, 1976, 
synthetic polymer paint and oil screenprint on canvas
182.5 x 243.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Presented by Mrs Adrian Gibson as the winner of the 1976 Sir William Angliss Memorial Art Prize, 1977
A25-1977 © Jan Senbergs/Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia

There is one painting in Jan Senbergs: Observation – Imagination at the National Gallery of Victoria that should strike a chord with every true artist. The Swimmer (1995) shows a small figure battling his way through dark, choppy waves, with no shoreline in sight. It conjures up those moments in the studio when inspiration disappears, … More


Head On 2016

May 6, 2016
Daniella Zalcman's Signs of Your Identity @ Festival Hub Central

Sydney loves grand, all-encompassing events, and Head On has become one of the most eagerly awaited festivals in the cultural calendar. This year’s show is distributed among 60 public and private venues spread throughout the city, the suburbs, and other parts of the state. Twenty major international photographers will be participating in talks and workshops … More


Guy Warren

April 29, 2016
Guy Warren, Bathers (2), 1957

Guy Warren is the best proof that a positive attitude is the secret of eternal youth. Having just turned 95, Warren seems as vital as ever. I’ve known him for about 30 years and he hardly seems to have changed. He’s still painting and drawing, still driving, still alert and articulate. He’s one of those … More