aboriginal art

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Encounters

February 11, 2016

‘Civilisation’ is a concept that has changed beyond recognition over the past century. To the pioneering ethnographers of the Victorian era, tribal cultures were merely stages on the way to the civilised state. Viewed as backward, impoverished and superstitious, it was accepted that such communities would wither and die as they fell under the spell … More


Country & Western

November 13, 2015

As Country & Western: landscape re-imagined tours Australia, it will leave a trail of disappointed music fans. The title seems to promise some mystical conjunction of landscape painting and Slim Dusty. In reality it’s all landscape. At the S.H.Ervin Gallery there is not even the sound of a guitar twanging in the background. It makes … More


Robert Campbell Jr.

April 18, 2015

Artbank, the Australian government’s art rental agency, has been around since 1980. It was an initiative of a Fraser administration returned to power for a third consecutive term that year – a reminder of an era when both sides of politics took an active interest in the arts. By contrast, today’s politicians seem completely devoid … More


Saltwater Country

August 16, 2014

‘Country’ is the most fundamental concept in the Aboriginal lexicon, but also the most misunderstood. The indigenous feeling for country is far more spiritual than sentimental. It’s a distinction that’s scarcely comprehensible to those of us who believe identity consists of what we make of ourselves, regardless of our place of origin. The Hollywood version … More


Dark Heart: 2014 Adelaide Biennial

March 15, 2014

Before heading south for this year’s Adelaide Biennial I saw Opera Australia’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Pushkin’s famous character is the archetypal ‘dark heart’. Onegin humiliates the young Tatiana, who has confessed her love for him. He plays a nasty joke on his best friend, and keeps going long after he should have stopped. … More


String Theory

August 31, 2013

String Theory is loosely defined as “a theory of everything” – which makes it an appropriate title for an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Be prepared, however, for a different experience to that provided by the usual cutting-edge creations. Allowing for a few conspicuously sophisticated items, most of this show of indigenous fibre-based … More


One week in Darwin

August 17, 2013

Darwin will always be a frontier town, but at this time of year it is the most cultured place in Australia. Enjoying a brief window of perfect dry season weather, the Darwin Festival has become a keenly anticipated event, with a lively mix of local and international acts. Because the Northern Territory is the heartland … More


Kevin Connor, Ricky Swallow & ‘Found’

August 10, 2013

Kevin Connor’s paintings aren’t pretty but they are attractive, having the peculiar magnetism of anything done with no thought of an audience or a peer group. This only begins to seem like a virtue when one thinks of all the art made as part of a career strategy, or by those who want to be … More


18th Biennale of Sydney

July 14, 2012

One of the most striking images in the 18th Biennale of Sydney is that of Japanese artist Sachiko Abe, dressed in bridal white, sitting in a small brick building in Cockatoo Island, cutting paper. Visitors are asked to remain silent, so the only sound is the noise made by Abe’s scissors as she trims sheets … More


18th Biennale of Sydney

July 7, 2012

“Between belief in Nature and belief in politics, one has to choose,” writes French sociologist, Bruno Latour, in the stand-out essay in this year’s Biennale catalogue. We have a perfect demonstration of this principle in the hysterical debate about a carbon price. While Nature is forever, politics is an exercise in short-term, strategic thinking that … More


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