Australian art

Australian Pavilion

May 16, 2015
The new Australian pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Venice has been thrilled by the idea of a new Australian pavilion in the Giardini, where Biennales have been held since 1893. There has been a lot of press and many photos, the favourite one showing the great black cube leaning out over the canal that bisects the exhibition area. One approaches the new building … More

William Delafield Cook (1936-2015)

May 15, 2015
William Delafield Cook, A haystack, 1978

In an article of 1979, Bryan Robertson, a curator who did much to advance the cause of Australian art in London, wrote that William Delafield Cook’s paintings seemed to have “no discernible ‘Australian’ qualities.” Yet Cook, who spent much of his career living and working in Britain, remained devoted to the Australian landscape, never showing … More

Michael Schlieper (1947-2015)

April 18, 2015
Michael Schlieper, 'But What's Behind It?'

Artists with superior technical abilities are often studies in disappointment. When you can paint like an Old Master it is depressing to see the kind of stuff that turns up in Biennales and public collections. Neither can one un-learn abilities that have become second nature. It’s a predicament that breeds fatalism. Michael Schlieper had all … More

Roy Jackson

March 28, 2015
Roy Jackson, The burial of the Sardine (from the novel by Arrabal), acrylic on canvas, (1985/86) Private Collection

In an era when art has plumbed new depths of frivolity, Roy Jackson (1944-2013) was almost too serious for his own good. He stubbornly believed the only thing that counted was the quality of the work, not the ephemeral ego gratifications artists enjoy during their 15 minutes of fame. He wasn’t even sure about the … More

Shaun Gladwell

March 14, 2015
Shaun Gladwell, Untitled (Wanderer above the sea of fog) (Detail), 2014

Watching the inexorable rise of Shaun Gladwell over the past decade makes me feel like the only teetotaler at a drunken party. After absorbing many hours of video, I still don’t get it. When everyone was gasping about Storm Sequence (2000) – a slow-motion film of Gladwell on a skateboard, I thought it was stupefying. … More

Guan Wei: Promised Land

February 21, 2015
Celebrated artist Guan Wei has painted three works to mark Chinese New Year. Photo: Danielle Smith

Guan Wei is one of a generation of Chinese artists who settled in Australia in the wake of the Tiananmen Square events of 1989, and found themselves balanced between two cultures in a way that was simultaneously confusing and stimulating. While Guan Wei’s work has remained distinctively, unmistakably Chinese, he has drawn a large part … More

Melbourne Art Fair 2014

August 23, 2014
Melbourne Art Fair 2014 at the Exhibition Building

Art dealers in Australia have an image problem. Every time a high profile art fraud comes to court, as in the recent case of a dud Albert Tucker painting, there is a mass of lurid publicity. We hear shocking stories about the prevalence of fakes, shady dealers, unreliable auction practices and double-dipping art consultants. It … More

Sam Fullbrook

May 17, 2014
Sam Fullbrook / Northwest landscape with Aborigines (detail) 1955 / Oil on canvas/ Gift of Mrs Anthea Wieneke 1984 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery/ © The artist /

When Matisse suggested that if you want to be an artist you must first cut out your tongue, he was acknowledging a fundamental truth: artists spout a lot of rubbish when they talk about their work. Rare indeed is the painter who can discuss his or her pictures in a calm, pragmatic manner, but Sam … More

2013: The Best & Worst of the Visual Arts

January 6, 2014
Installation piece: Xu Zhen's In Just a Blink of an Eye, in the 27th Kaldor Art Project 13 Rooms. Photo: Janie Barrett

My best art experience of the year happened on the other side of the planet, in a retrospective celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Edvard Munch. The show, divided between the National Gallery and the Munch Museum in Olso, revealed an unrelenting intensity of vision. It featured the most complete collection of paintings … More

Utzon’s Opera House

January 6, 2014
Rew Hanks, Eternity, 2006, coloured linocut.

“It has made me feel glad I am alive in Australia today,” wrote Patrick White in 1965, after a tour of the Sydney Opera House with architect, Jorn Utzon. “At last we are going to have something worth having.” The official opening in 1973 was overshadowed by the long and painful building process, which began … More