Australian art

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


Martin Sharp 1942-2013

December 5, 2013
Artist Martin Sharp at his Bellevue Hill home. Picture: Bob Barker. Source: News Limited

When the word Eternity was emblazoned on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the turn of the new millennium, it served to remind Australians of the remarkable talents of Martin Sharp. This famous piece of graffiti was the trademark of the religious eccentric, Arthur Stace, who spent almost 30 years chalking it onto walls and streets, … More


Fiona Hall for Venice

December 5, 2013
Fiona Hall, A selection of intricate sculptures carved from sardine cans, Royal Academy, London

For more than 20 years Fiona Hall has been the obvious, dead-set, undeniable first choice to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale. It is a testimony to the acumen of our arts bureaucracy that in 2015 she will become the first artist to occupy a newly-built pavilion. Any other country might have rushed her into … More


Sculpture by the Sea 2013

November 9, 2013
Bert Flugelman, Semaphore, 2000, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2013. Image from Instagram.

It was not the best of times, it was not worst of times. The 17th annual Sculpture by the Sea (SxS) features the usual mix of pieces that might be described as ‘serious’ sculpture, and others that are little more than gimmicks. It has become a familiar recipe but seems to go down well with … More


Australia at the Royal Academy

September 28, 2013
John Olsen, Sydney sun (King sun) 1965, oil on three plywood panels, 307.0 h x 412.5 w x 4.0 d cm

Australia at the Royal Academy of Arts in London has echoes of Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster movie of 2010. Like that overblown, incoherent concoction, the one-word title of the RA show suggests this is all you will ever need to know about Australian art. It presents itself as a definitive statement. Kathleen Soriano, Director of Exhibitions … More


Party time in London

September 21, 2013
Sidney Nolan, 'Ned Kelly', 1946, Enamel paint on composition board, 90.8 x 121.5 cm

For the long-anticipated show of Australian art at the Royal Academy the opening night was always going to be a joyous affair. The problem is that nobody looks at the art at an opening. Having already spent hours inspecting this exhibition I felt like a party pooper when people gushed: “Isn’t it wonderful!?” No, it’s … More


C.J.Pyle & J.D.’Ohai Ojeikere; Mary Tonkin; Six Artists, Seven Days

August 24, 2013
C. J. Pyle, Carbonique, 2011, ballpoint pen, paint and graphite on LP jacket sleeve, 31 x 31 cm

After many years of exile from the high church of contemporary art, Ray Hughes is now thinking maybe there is a God. His faith has been momentarily restored by a visit from Chris Dercon, the director of Tate Modern, London, who came to Australia last month to deliver a lecture sponsored by Kaldor Public Art … More


One week in Darwin

August 17, 2013
Gulumbu Yunipingu, Ganyu-the universe, 2008 (detail)

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, Evening light (Liverpool Street west) with courthouse and cat, 2013, oil on canvas, 193 x 203 cm

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