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Australian art | John McDonald

Australian art

Russell Drysdale: The Drawings

March 3, 2012

When Lou Klepac tells us that Russell Drysdale “was always reluctant to get on with painting or even drawing,” it is the merest understatement. Of all the Australian artists who have made a lasting contribution to the national culture, Drysdale was the least driven by either ambition or compulsion. This year is the hundredth anniversary … More


Love Lace

February 25, 2012

Over the past few years the Powerhouse Museum has attracted plenty of critics, but turn up on a Saturday and the place is full of people. Does this mean the criticisms are baseless – the mere bleating of snobs and elitists? Well no, actually. Since its grand opening in 1988, the building has always been … More


Fred Sandback; Wim Delvoye; Abstract Canvas; Philip King

February 18, 2012

Over the years Andrew Jensen has edged his way north, starting in Christchurch, moving to Wellington, on to Auckland, and last year crossing national lines and arriving in Sydney. What makes the Jensen Gallery unusual is that the exhibition program consists of 70-80 per cent international art – the kind of art we normally only … More


Geoff Dyer, Stephen Bird, Etsuko Fukaya, Joanna Braithwaite

February 11, 2012

When Thoreau wrote: “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”, he probably wasn’t thinking about art dealers. Yet the phrase springs to mind when one considers the sluggishness of the commercial art scene over the past couple of years. While the art market weathered the GFC better than was generally expected, an extended … More


Impressions: Painting Light & Life

February 4, 2012

A survey of portraiture by Australian artists of the late nineteenth century would seem to be long overdue. Despite the institutional obsession with all things contemporary, the works of the so-called Australian Impressionists – Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Fred McCubbin and Charles Conder – remain the most popular drawcards in our public collections. The problem … More


Robert Malherbe, Rhys Lee, Peter Godwin & Guan Wei

October 22, 2011

There is a romantic expectation that an artist will keep producing works that are wholly original. This can create a debilitating pressure, as some feel obliged to produce a new twist with every exhibition. But art is not created in a vacuum, and all artists take something from their predecessors. As Picasso is famously alleged … More


Art and Seoul

October 20, 2011

Regular readers must be starting to wonder in what part of the world they’ll find themselves from week to week. I’m starting to wonder myself. Recently I was in Seoul for the 10th Korean International Art Fair, today I’m on a plane coming back from Shanghai. Without wanting to sound glib, the very fact that … More


Leon Kossoff, Ben Quilty and James Powditch

October 30, 2010

Looking at recent reports on the Paris art fair, FIAC, it was morbidly interesting to learn about the most eye-catching works and the prices they fetched. For instance, Barry X Ball’s Sleeping Hermaphrodite – a black marble quotation of a famous Roman sculpture, went for US$ 623,000. A bronze sculpture by Paul McCarthy, with the … More


National Gallery of Australia: A New Extension

October 23, 2010

Nobody in Australia is more experienced in the ways of gallery building than Andrew Andersons, the chief architect of the new wing at the National Gallery of Australia. Although he is a super professional, Andersons has often been criticised by other architects who find his buildings prosaic, deficient in detail and artistry. To be fair, … More


The Blake Prize

September 20, 2010

If all religion were as vague and non-descript as the works in the Blake Prize, the world would be a much more peaceful place. Nobody could ever be passionate, let alone fanatical, about the lame and timid entries in Australia’s leading competition for religious art. Or should that be ‘spiritual’ art? This is the 59th … More